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Joining Federal makes sense



Published: Sat, February 9, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Let's get something straight. If I were a coach at Austintown Fitch or Boardman, I would probably want to join the Federal League.

But I'm not a coach, so I don't like the idea. And my reasons are completely biased.

First, I went to school at Uniontown Lake, which would likely have to leave the Federal if Fitch, Boardman, Canton McKinley or Massillon Washington join. From Lake's perspective, this whole thing stinks because there's a certain amount of pride we Blue Streaks take in competing in the Federal. (OK, so no one around here cares, but it bugs me.)

Second, I'm a reporter, which means I'd have to drive to Canton to cover games. That's a pain.

Fallout: Third, I'm concerned about what will happen to some local rivalries. Fitch and Boardman would still play Ursuline, Mooney and Warren Harding, but not as often. And it will be hard for some fans to muster up the same enthusiasm for a Canton GlenOak-Fitch basketball game as they would if Fitch were playing a Steel Valley Conference team.

That admitted, the move makes a lot of sense for Fitch and Boardman. Fitch has an enrollment of 1,239 students and Boardman has 1,249. That's pretty similar to most of the schools in the Federal.

Mooney's enrollment is 464. Ursuline's is even lower at 416. That's a pretty big difference. Harding, which also wants to join the Federal League, has an enrollment of 1,533, which is bigger than Massillon Washington and slightly smaller than Canton McKinley.

If Fitch and Boardman leave -- a big if -- that would probably leave Harding as an independent, since Federal League officials don't seem too keen on the idea of including the Raiders.

Ursuline and Mooney would probably have to join the City Series or try to form a new league.

MAC not receptive: Don't count on Ursuline and Mooney going to the Metro Athletic Conference. First, their feeder programs at the middle school level usually don't compete against the public schools, which is probably a prerequisite for any team wanting to join the MAC. Second, most of the schools in the MAC have, shall we say, not-so-warm feelings toward the two schools.

And let's face it, whether or not you think Mooney and Ursuline recruit, they have to get students from somewhere. Thus, the majority must come from this area or they won't have many students.

Transfers aren't a big problem for schools like Fitch and Boardman, which are large enough to lose a few students and still be competitive. But for a school like Struthers, which has an enrollment of 480, it's a big problem. The Wildcats don't even have soccer because many people think it would take players away from the football team. (And they're right.)

My guess is that Fitch and Boardman will be accepted to the Federal. Canton McKinley may also be accepted. I think Massillon Washington and Warren Harding are long shots. Harding is probably too far away and most of the schools in the Federal League don't exactly have warm and fuzzy feelings toward Massillon.

Sore spot: Earlier this year, Massillon football coach Rick Shepas accused -- inaccurately -- the Federal League schools of racism for refusing to play schools with black students. Shepas later apologized, but I'm sure Federal League officials haven't forgotten about it.

Ultimately, I have no idea what's going to happen. Federal League officials aren't talking and the whole process is still at a very preliminary stage. But there are reasons it makes a lot of sense.

And since attendance for many games in the new Federal League would be impressive, here's at least one good reason to expand:

It will make a lot of cents.

XJoe Scalzo is a sportswriter for The Vindicator. Write him at scalzo@vindy.com.




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