PREP SPORTS New league is best answer
The ICL and TCL have merged into the ITCL, a 16-team conference.
COLUMBIANA -- Nothing's official until you sign on the bottom line, and that's what happened Thursday at Columbiana High School.
The superintendents representing the 16 schools of the Inter-County League and Tri-County League signed a constitution making the Inter-Tri County League an official entity.
Championships will start to be determined in the 2006-07 school year.
"Our leagues have had so much in common," said Lisbon's Don Thompson, who first floated the idea of a merger as long as three years ago.
"Both leagues have been very stable for many years, with some exceptions," he added. "But there had been discussions, because of the varying sizes of schools in each league. That's not been a real problem in many sports, but football is the driving force, and that's where some competitive concerns had been coming up.
"This [new league], right now, is the best solution."
Rivalries will remain
Thompson was joined by Leetonia's Tom Inchak in representing the TCL; Debra Mettee of Springfield and Charles Swindler of Western Reserve represented the ICL.
"From Springfield's standpoint, we are very enthusiastic," said Mettee. "It eliminates a lot of the travel time issues that were an impediment in the mega-merger talks. It also allows us to continue important rivalries for us, like Lowellville."
The mega-merger, or super conference, idea was floated last year by the Metro Athletic Conference and Trumbull Athletic Conference, and would have included the Inter-County League, but that idea was abandoned after several meetings couldn't resolve differences.
That's when Thompson renewed his vision of a 16-school league.
"This [constitution] committee has been working for about two or three months," he said. "The idea of our leagues merging has been a process of about two or three years."
The league will be split evenly into two divisions, based on total enrollment figures -- boys and girls -- that are reported to the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
Division I, consisting of the bigger schools, will be Columbiana, Crestview, East Palestine, Lisbon, Mineral Ridge, South Range, Springfield and United.
Division II will be Jackson-Milton, Leetonia, Lowellville, McDonald, Sebring, Southern, Wellsville and Western Reserve.
Possible realignment will be looked at every two years, beginning in time for the 2008-09 school year, which is when the OHSAA releases new figures.
Thompson said the difference in enrollment between the eighth- and ninth-largest schools, however, was great enough -- between 35 and 40 students -- that he didn't think it was likely much change would be forthcoming in the division setups.
The next step
Inchak said the process was not without its pitfalls.
"I don't think anybody got exactly what they wanted," he said, "and there were some schools [in the TCL] that voted not to explore the merger in the first place.
"But, that's what you have leagues for -- you discuss the situation, you vote, and the majority rules." And, Swindler pointed out, all 16 superintendents signed the constitution.
The next step is for the principals and athletic directors of each high school, who will make up the league's Board of Control, to establish by-laws and regulations.
League schedules will also be drawn up.
"There have been concerns raised," said Thompson, "but what we have tried to do is look at the whole picture and put teams in situations where they will be competitive situations."