Mooney, Ursuline and Warren Harding will try to expand the league.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
Don't count out the Steel Valley Conference just yet, especially when it has agreed to rebuild itself.
Austintown Fitch and Boardman may be exiting for the Federal League after the school year, but Cardinal Mooney, Ursuline and Warren Harding are willing to provide a foundation for the future.
In one of the most logical moves since word surfaced that the long-standing conference would disband, the three remaining schools have decided to stick together while promoting expansion.
"It's going to be a lot easier for expansion of our league if we stay together rather than if we go independent for a couple of years and try to build a new league," said Mooney athletic director Don Bucci, architect of the plan, Wednesday night. "Expansion is so much easier."
Bucci actually formed the idea from comments made in a newspaper article by Fitch athletic director Dick Kenney.
"[Kenney] had said he hated to see the Steel Valley break up. He ended by saying, 'I hope they stay together,' " Bucci recalled. "All we did was take it from there."
Bucci proposed the idea at the Steel Valley meeting Tuesday night. It was met with overwhelming support, he said.
"In my proposal, I tried to point out what we feel good about," Bucci said. "From '86 to '90, we had a four-member conference [excluding Warren Harding]. We had a very successful league, and nobody thought about disbanding the Steel Valley."
So, Bucci thought, why couldn't it work with three schools, at least temporarily?
"A lot of people question whether it can survive with three teams," Bucci said. "That's not our goal. Our goal is to maintain it for the next few years with the idea that expansion will come."
For that reason, Bucci said, the SVC will change its philosophy. Now, there will be no restriction on the number of -- or which -- sports a prospective school would want to enter into the conference.
"If you're interested in coming to the Steel Valley Conference, we will sit down and talk," Bucci said. "We feel that's our way of getting expansion."
So which schools would be a good fit for the SVC, at least in some capacity? Bucci mentioned the two future Youngstown schools, Warren JFK, Campbell, East Liverpool and Steubenville.
The new SVC will not be overloaded with Division I teams, Bucci said, making it attractive to other schools. Warren Harding would be the lone Div. I; Mooney and Ursuline are Div. IV in football.
"Most teams feel they can play one Division I school," Bucci said.
The next step, Bucci added, is to finish the school year in normal fashion, with the five-member SVC holding its regular executive meeting. In June 2003, the constitution will be revised to include the three schools.