PREP SPORTS Pros and cons for move to Federal

There are arguments to both sides of a move by Fitch and Boardman to a new league.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Everyone knows Fitch and Boardman are talking about leaving the Steel Valley Conference.
Many people can't figure out why.
"To me, it's a no-brainer," Mooney athletic director Don Bucci said. "I think a move would be disappointing for Fitch and Boardman's fans. Why would you want to play an hour-and-a-half away and try to build new rivalries?"
Good question. Here's a look at some of the pros and cons.
Pros: First, it's no secret that the SVC wanted to expand. An eight-team league is preferable to a five-team league because it guarantees a greater number of league games. (Pretty simple, right?)
Problem is, Fitch and Boardman are the only Division I teams in Mahoning County and Warren Harding is the only one in Trumbull County.
Aside from Ursuline and Mooney, most of the schools in the area don't think they can compete with the larger schools on a consistent basis.
And since population is going down, Fitch and Boardman think that attitude won't change.
Second, joining the Federal League guarantees Fitch and Boardman will play a strong schedule. It would be especially good in football, where computer points are tabulated, in part, by the size of the opponents you beat.
And playing such a strong schedule will ensure that teams are ready for tournament time.
Third, an expanded Federal League would likely become the most prestigious league in the state. That doesn't mean much now, since the SVC is still strong, but it ensures Fitch and Boardman will be in a strong league 10 years from now.
Cons: The biggest is travel time. Travel to some schools could take as much as three hours round trip.
Earlier start times and Saturday games alleviate some of the problems, but it won't get rid of them.
Many argue that it will especially hurt students at the middle school, freshman and junior-varsity levels.
Second, increased travel time obviously brings increased travel costs. And while attendance for some games will increase, attendance at many contests will decrease.
That means a drop in ticket sales and concessions. And the travel costs don't just apply to the schools -- the fans have to pay more too.
Third, the rivalries may not have the same passion. Boardman and Fitch have been playing Federal League schools for many years, but don't yet have the same tradition.
And because Fitch and Boardman would have so many league games, they cannot play as many local teams.
That's bad news for teams like Harding, Ursuline and Mooney, which have enough trouble scheduling games as it is.
"People look at our league and take pride in the relationships with other schools," Boardman athletic director Jimmy Fox said. "But there's always been a shifting of alliances in the last 50 years.
"The decision we reach will affect a lot of people for years to come."
Ultimately, there's no easy answer -- and no consensus about what to do.
Fitch athletic director Dick Kenney may have summed it up best: "If we make the move, you know doggone well there's gonna be some people that are happy and some that are upset."

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