Beginning next year, basketball fans attending games involving All-American Conference schools will have to get an earlier start to their night. The AAC earlier this week voted to move up the start time of league games to 5:30 p.m. for junior varsity contests. Tip-off for varsity games will be at 7 p.m. Currently, games begin at 6 and 7:30, respectively.
The change will go into effect at the start of the 2013-14 season. Athletic directors from the league’s 16 member schools voted on the proposal, with AAC commissioner Rick King saying the majority of the athletic directors were in favor of the change, but the vote was not unanimous.
“We’re making this change with the best interest of the student-athlete in mind,” King said. “The earlier we can get our athletes home, the better. That also goes for the students who are attending games as fans. There are nights where the athletes don’t get out of the gym and home until 10 o’clock or later. With so many Tuesday games, that’s not in the best interest of a student who has homework to complete.”
The change will affect all league games. King noted that while schools have the option of starting non-league home games at a different time, he expects most, if not all schools will maintain a uniform 5:30 and 7 p.m. schedule.
“At the risk of confusing fans, it would probably be wise for schools to maintain a specific start time throughout their season,” King said.
King acknowledged that travel time and gym availability may force some schools to occasionally resort to later starting times. When playing non-league games on the road, start times will be determined by the host school.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see other area leagues follow our lead,” King said. “The same thing happened a few years ago in football. Now, just about every area team kicks off at 7 o’clock.”
EXPANSION ON THE HORIZON
Change may also be coming to the AAC in the form of league expansion.
King on Tuesday confirmed that the AAC is actively seeking to expand its membership. The league currently includes 16 schools split up in two divisions. The Red Division has Austintown Fitch, Howland, Canfield, Poland, Niles, Beaver Local, Struthers and Hubbard. The Blue Division consists of Lakeview, Liberty, Girard, Jefferson, Campbell, Newton Falls, Champion and LaBrae.
Fitch participates in all sports with the exception of football. Beaver Local will leave the conference in June.
King noted that an ideal situation would be to add three schools, allowing the conference to split into three tiers. He hopes that all member schools eventually will compete in all sports.
“With Beaver Local leaving, it leaves us with an odd number,” King said. “Also, with only two tiers, there is a pretty big enrollment difference between the biggest and smallest school of each tier.”
“Expanding would help even out the playing field for all the schools involved.”
While no schools have officially expressed interest or have officially been invited, King said he “is pretty certain” that several area schools will join AAC.
King said he expects to have an expansion plan in place by May 1. Any new schools added to the conference would begin to compete within the league beginning in 2014.
Salem senior Ryan Bush spent the past week putting himself in the record books.
Last Friday, Bush became the fourth player in school history to record 1,000 career points. On Tuesday, he set a single-game school scoring record with 47 points in an 83-64 victory over Liberty.
Bush broke the previous record (45), which was set in 1979 by Walt DeShields.
“I never expected to have a night like that,” Bush said. “I had 26 at halftime, and some of my teammates were kidding around, saying I was going to get the record. I just laughed it off. But my teammates kept feeding me the ball. When I got to 40, I thought, ‘hey, I can do this.’ ”
Bush, who is averaging 25.5 points per game, is just 118 points shy of becoming Salem’s all-time career scoring leader. Don Biery owns the record with 1,168 points. That mark was established in 1962.
Salem (10-2, 6-1) is in a first-place tie with Canton South in the Northeastern Buckeye Conference.
“Setting the school scoring record will be neat if it happens, but right now all I want to do is win a league title and go far in the tournament,” Bush said. “People still talk about the 2006 team that won districts. We want to be the Salem team everyone talks about.”
Steve Ruman, The Vindicator (email@example.com)