Northeast Ohio's largest schools say they have problems finding opponents willing to play.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Austintown Fitch and Boardman have yet to apply to the Federal League, but the Steel Valley Conference's other schools already are preparing for the worst.
Thom McDaniels, the Warren Harding High football coach, brought together representatives from eight Northeast Ohio schools Wednesday, including four from the Youngstown area, to talk about scheduling difficulties and a possible future coalition among the schools.
"The schools represented there have common issues and common concerns and we thought it might be a good idea to come together and try to come up with some solutions," said McDaniels, the meeting's moderator.
Representatives from Ursuline, Mooney, Youngstown City Schools, Cleveland St. Ignatius, Lakewood St. Edward, Canton McKinley, Massillon Washington and Warren Harding attended the meeting.
McKinley and Massillon are also expected to apply to the Federal League.
Football: The meeting's main topic was football scheduling. Federal League expansion could be disastrous for teams like Harding, St. Ignatius and St. Edward, which already have problems filling their football schedules with in-state teams.
"The good teams in Ohio are being shunned," McDaniels said. "That's a problem that the OHSAA has to address."
The present playoff system offers no reward to teams that play larger schools and lose, McDaniels said. Enrollment figures for Division I schools can also vary widely -- much greater than in other divisions -- and smaller schools are often reluctant to play larger schools.
That causes scheduling headaches for teams like Harding. Mooney, Ursuline and Youngstown's city schools also have scheduling problems, and a breakup of the SVC will only make things worse.
Little optimism: McDaniels isn't optimistic that the SVC will stay together.
"I'd say the chances are very slight," said McDaniels, who met with SVC athletic directors Tuesday -- a meeting that did not ease his concerns.
"The overtone of the meeting dealt with a lack of consideration and cooperation by [Fitch and Boardman]," McDaniels said. "When we have to read in the media about their intentions instead of hearing it straight from them, that generates hurt and resentment. And that hurt and resentment is real."
Mooney athletic director Don Bucci, who attended both meetings, said he still hopes to see the SVC stay together.
"I don't think we've given any thought to exiting the league before Fitch and Boardman," Bucci said. "I'd feel real bad to see it break up. But I understand they have to do what's best for their schools."
Tuesday's SVC meeting was not reassuring, Bucci said.
"I was hoping for a little more positive statement [from Fitch and Boardman] like they weren't thinking about leaving and that it was all a rumor," he said. "They didn't indicate that. They made it clear that they want to explore their options."
The schools at Wednesday's meeting will meet again in late March. The SVC's future will be clearer then since Fitch and Boardman have to declare their intentions by March 19.
"We think the SVC is a great league and we'd hate to see it break up," Bucci said. "But it's really in Fitch and Boardman's hands right now."