By Rob Todor
A proposed super alliance of more than 20 schools, including four from the Mahoning Valley, seemed to be an exciting certainty last week.
Today the alliance is busted and leaves at least one of the local schools facing a vast uncertainty of how it’s going to fill its football schedules in the coming years.
The proposed alliance would have included Chaney and East High Schools, along with Austintown Fitch and Warren Harding.
Harding athletic director Paul Trina was one of the original proponents and forces behind the league, and Monday he sounded very discouraged in a phone interview.
“We’ve been down this road several times,” said Trina. “[That it didn’t work is] not because of a lack of effort on our part, and a lot of other people.”
According to a communiqu obtained by The Vindicator, the four Valley schools were to be joined by seven schools in the Akron Public Schools — Buchtel, East, Ellet, Firestone, Garfield, Kenmore and North — along with the remaining schools (with Harding) in the Lake Erie League — Bedford, Cleveland Heights, Euclid, Lorain, Maple Heights, East Cleveland Shaw and Warrensville Heights.
Also part of the discussions were Massillon Washington, Barberton and Marion Harding.
According to Fitch athletic director Rob Conklin, the alliance was designed as a “smorgasboard,” i.e., each school could participate in as many (or as few) league sports as desired. All of the schools were on board for football, but Fitch, for instance, would compete only in wrestling, and the Youngstown City schools were going to compete in football and basketball.
For Olympic sports, such as cross country, golf, tennis, track and field and bowling, the alliance would hold only a league championship tournament. Fitch, East and Chaney were scheduled to participate in those sports.
However, alliance organizers set an April 1 deadline for schools to commit. Suffice it say, most of the schools suddenly got cold feet.
“All of a sudden, I hear the Akron City Schools are not on the same page,” said Trina. “I find out Marion Harding is looking at some other options. So is Barberton, and Bedford.
“At this point, there’s just too much going on [by other schools]. It’s just not worth the effort to try and get everybody on board.”
For now, Trina said, Harding will continue in the LEL, which this year is a two-division setup, but with Mentor leaving before next fall and Shaker Heights after 2011-12, will leave eight schools.
That allows for a tidy seven-game league schedule, but schools like Warrensville Heights and Lorain aren’t good matchups for the Raiders, at the gate or for OHSAA computer rankings points.
“We’re still talking with Cleveland Heights and Euclid,” said Trina. “We’re the three largest schools left in the LEL.”
For Conklin, the break up of the alliance leaves some serious holes to fill in the Falcons’ 2012 — and beyond — football schedule.
Conklin said he relayed the news to his administration on Monday, adding “we’re [in trouble]” for football.
Only his description was a bit more graphic.
“It was a great plan,” said Conklin. “A lot of people were initially interested, and we’re still committed to working something out.”
Conklin said he would continue to communicate with Trina and Cleveland Heights athletic director Kristin Hughes to form a cornerstone of any proposed leagues.
Conklin added he did not expect Austintown Fitch to join the LEL in its current format.
“The reason we left the Federal League was because our board of education was concerned about how we could [not] continue to handle the travel costs,” he said. “The Lake Erie League would create the same concerns.”