By Greg Gulas
First-year commissioners tend to hit the ground running, hoping that things slow down just enough so that they can catch their breath between seasons.
Rick King, who spent 36 years in education and athletics at Howland High, is in his maiden year as the All-American Conference’s top official. He replaced Clem Zumpella and is hoping that the success his league’s teams have enjoyed thus far continues with their winter and spring sports.
Speaking Monday to the Curbstone Coaches, King noted that the biggest challenge confronting the five-year league will be replacing one team at the end of the year while entertaining the possibility of expansion.
“Like most posts, this job is a challenge but one that I readily welcome and accept,” King said. “The All-American Conference is one of the best leagues in the area and the successes that we have enjoyed individually and as a team reported on by the area media, has kept our league as a topic of conversation throughout the Mahoning Valley.”
“We’ve made some minor changes but to a certain degree we’ve been able to keep things the same; most especially the traditions of our many league members. Success makes everybody happy and we’ve definitely had our share of successes,” he added.
The AAC offers 21 sports; 11 for boys and 10 for girls with Austintown Fitch a participant in all sports except football.
This fall, 13 league runners qualified individually for state competition in cross country while the Poland girls qualified as a team.
Conference member Canfield advanced to the regional finals in girls soccer and volleyball while Howland, Niles McKinley, Poland, Hubbard and Liberty made the football playoffs.
“We’re always tweaking, reviewing and revisiting scheduling in all of our sports because we want our teams to be competitive,” King said. “We also want to create balance and minimize conflicts.”
The league will lose Beaver Local at the end of the school year so replacing the Beavers is paramount for King.
Expansion is also something that cannot be ruled out.
“From a scheduling standpoint, in order to maintain a balance it is important that we find a replacement for Beaver Local,” King said. “We have two tiers now; an American and National Division which has replaced the Red, White and Blue divisions of our first three years.
“There are some out there that would like us to go back to the three divisions,” he said.
“Superintendents will have the final say regarding expansion and any other moves that are presented,” King said.
While serving as athletic director at Howland, King spearheaded the move by the school to take part in concussion testing with the Pittsburgh Medical Center.
“We want to do the right thing when it comes to head injuries and I would like to see our league members take an active part in that study as well,” he said.
King understands the demands on a school’s athletic director.
“I commend the athletic director’s at all of our schools because they are the ones who work hard to formulate master schedules, work to ensure balance within our schedules and continue to address the needs of all of our members,” King said.