Boardman and Fitch must notify the SVC by March 19 if they want to leave within the next year.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
BOARDMAN -- The future of the Steel Valley Conference became even more clouded Tuesday night when Boardman High coaches expressed support for joining the Federal League, according to athletic director Jim Fox.
The next step is for the Boardman board of education and other school administrators to consider the proposal, which will likely lead to a letter of interest being sent to Federal League officials.
Austintown Fitch is also expected to send a letter of interest.
"The coaches expressed significant support for the move," Fox said. "Now the board of education will have to digest the information and find out what's in the best interest of the school."
Probable candidates: Boardman expressed interest last year, but Federal League officials did not act on it. Now the Federal, which loses Alliance and Wooster in the next two years, is looking to expand. The most probable candidates mentioned are Boardman, Fitch, Canton McKinley and Massillon Washington.
Boardman and Fitch must notify SVC officials by March 19 if they want to leave the league within the next year. Otherwise, the schools are bound by the league constitution for at least two years.
SVC officials will have a board meeting next Tuesday and will likely discuss the issue.
Fitch principal Doug McGlynn said the school's preference is for the SVC to expand, but admits the league hasn't had much luck.
"We've even talked with the [Metro Athletic Conference] to try to figure out some configuration that we can work out," McGlynn said. "The Federal is really the only other place we could go."
The main problem is size. Boardman has an enrollment of 1,249 students and Fitch has 1,239. Howland is the largest MAC school with 827 students. Struthers is the smallest with 480 students.
MAC commissioner Clem Zumpella said the leagues have talked about expansion, but on a very informal basis.
Discussion results: "We've had some informal proposals that would have everyone together except in football," Zumpella said. "Everybody sat down and talked about it but it never got any further."
Because of the size difference, the SVC and MAC are unlikely to merge, Zumpella said.
Officials at Boardman and Fitch both emphasize that interest in the Federal is very preliminary at this point and that both schools are just exploring their options. Federal League officials will not meet until April and have been tight-lipped about expansion since their last meeting in January.
"You never know how [the Federal] will vote anyway," McGlynn said. "We're just looking to talk more seriously about joining. We'd like to sit down and hash through some of the differences and problems."
The main problem is distance. Fitch and Boardman are at least an hour away from most schools in the Federal.
"But that distance can be reconciled scheduling-wise to reduce the impact," Fox said.
Scheduling earlier games -- especially freshman and junior varsity contest -- and playing games on Saturday are among the possibilities, Fox said.
Aftermath: If Boardman and Fitch were to leave the SVC, the schools would still play area schools on their non-league schedule.
"We'd still have a local flavor," Fox said. "As long as they're willing to play us, we're willing to play them."
The seven-member Federal League will lose Alliance -- which will join the MAC -- and Wooster in the next two years. Other Federal League schools include Massillon Perry, Massillon Jackson, North Canton Hoover, Canton GlenOak and Uniontown Lake.