AUSTINTOWN -- A prestigious statewide collegiate sports organization has relocated to the Youngstown area, which will become a big plus for the community.
The Ohio Athletic Conference, the third-oldest collegiate sports conference in the nation which was founded in 1902, recently moved its offices from Twinsburg to Austintown into offices at 4990 Mahoning Ave., Suite C.
The OAC consists of 10 NCAA Division III schools from Ohio, including nearby Mount Union College in Alliance.
The other member schools are Baldwin-Wallace (Berea), Capital (Beckley), Heidelberg (Tiffin), John Carroll (University Heights), Marietta, Muskingum (New Concord), Ohio Northern (Ada), Otterbein (Westerville) and Wilmington.
Tim Gleason, a native of Youngstown and a 1973 Chaney High graduate, is in his 16th season as the OAC's first full-time commissioner and he's the main reason that the OAC moved to set up shop in his hometown area.
Gleason, who organized the first OAC office in 1991 in Cleveland and then moved it to Twinsburg in 1994, said he brought the OAC to Austintown "because it was closer to my home in Mineral Ridge and the [OAC schools] presidents approved it because it doesn't make any difference where the office is located."
That's because, "In this day and age, with technology especially, it doesn't matter where the conference office is. It goes wherever I go because that's where the office is."
Prior to the OAC being located in Cleveland, the OAC office was a part-time operation in Toledo being operated by the Mid-American Conference, Gleason said. "It became a full-time operation in 1991 and I became the first full-time commissioner in 1991," he pointed out.
Win-win situationfor OAC, Youngstown
A graduate of St. Thomas University in Miami, Gleason said that said the relocation creates a win-win situation for the OAC and the Youngstown area.
"When an organization that's state or national comes to your town, I think that it says lot for the community," said Gleason, who believes the move will enhance the area's image throughout the state and nation. "Especially if the organization is well-respected and prestigious [like the OAC] and is media-oriented like a sports organization."
Gleason said that the area will be getting a lot of publicity generated by the OAC and its 10 member schools throughout the year through the various publications for all intercollegiate sports.
"It certainly makes the Youngstown area more recognizable because our website and letterheads remind people we are from the area," said Gleason, who is married to the former Sherry Rummell of Mineral Ridge. Her father is Bill Rummell, a former superintendent of schools in Mineral Ridge.
"Occasionally we will bring people into town for meetings, not very often but sometimes, and that will stimulate local business to some degree."
He likened the move to "when the NCAA was in Shawnee-Mission, Kan., and Shawnee and Mission were two separate communities that combined post offices because the NCAA was bigger than both of them combined."
He said the NCAA, now located in Indianapolis, made Shawnee-Mission known throughout America.
He also agreed with the analogy that the OAC being in Austintown is similar to the Ohio High School Athletic Association being located in Columbus, each enhancing the other's image.
Other benefits for OACinclude convenience
In addition to the new OAC office being more convenient for Gleason, he said the move also benefits the organization in other ways.
"I gained by the fact that Youngstown is a pretty good-sized area but not too big, so that all of the services I need like computer repair assistance and printers and supplies, I can find all of them in Youngstown," said Gleason, who is assisted in the office by Lindsay Rickel, information director; and Winnie Trotter, administrative assistant.
He also said the Austintown office makes it easier for him to have meetings with Dr. Larry Glass, an area dentist who serves as the OAC's supervisor for football officials.
"It's easy for us to get together to study film," said Gleason, noting that Dr. Glass is a former Mid-American Conference referee and nationally-respected as an expert teacher on officiating, but now retired as an official.
Gleason loves to point out that the OAC has been around more than 100 years and that Ohio State was a charter member from 1902 until 1922. He said OSU remained a dues-paying member until 1969, even though it no longer was a member, because it loved the fact that "the OAC was founded before the NCAA, and Ohio State was a member of the OAC.
"[OSU] would send the league office a check for [dues], and finally in 1969 that ended when the OAC said they would no longer accept the checks after OSU won the Rose Bowl," as a gift.
"[It was] time that we said, 'thank you.' "
John Kovach is a sportswriter with The Vindicator. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.