By Michael Rich
The Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference is here to stay after all after months of turmoil following the departure of all eight members of the league’s Blue Division and two members of the Red Division.
The six remaining schools — Buckeye Valley, Galion, Marion Harding, North Union, Pleasant and River Valley — met Wednesday and decided to stick together.
“I was happy to see that the six schools decided to remain together,” MOAC commissioner Terry Williams said.
The current Blue Division schools in Knox and Morrow County, Cardington, Centerburg, East Knox, Fredricktown, Highland, Mount Gilead and Northmor — will join Danville, which was denied membership into the league, in a yet to be named new league.
“Things like this don’t occur overnight,” Williams said. “There was a six-year span where a lot of the decisions were being made and a lot of things were going on. I really don’t think you can pinpoint one event. It was just a combination of a lot of different things.”
Elgin, the lone remaining Blue member, will leave the MOAC and join the Northwest Central Conference in August 2017, according to the Courier.
Two members of the Red Division have already announced departures from the MOAC. Fairbanks will join the Ohio Heritage Conference, according to the Marion Press.
Jonathan Alder, the league’s newest member, announced Feb. 10 that it will join the Central Buckeye Conference, according to the Galion Inquirer.
The MOAC hopes to add two to four members in the near future. It extended an invitation to Clear Fork in November, prior to the departure of the Knox and Morrow County schools.
“That invitation still stands,” Williams said. “I spoke to them today and they’re going to continue to review that and present it to their board.”
Williams said that Ontario, Shelby and Willard High Schools have all shown interest.
“As of right now, I haven’t received any applications,” Williams said.
All of this turmoil led Buckeye Valley athletic director Matt Fisher, who is in his first year with the school, to look at other options.
“We looked around like other (schools) when we didn’t think (the league) was going to stay together,” he said. “I think everyone realized that it was in the best interest to stick with the group that everyone had been in a relationship with for years. I think it’s a good move. I have no regrets with this. If you would have asked me a week ago, I didn’t think this was going to happen, so I’m excited about it.”
The school has applied to join the Ohio Capital Conference, but Fisher isn’t optimistic because BV’s size.
“We applied and never really had much conversation with them other than that,” Fisher said.
A more realistic option was for BV to join the Mid-State League, which has an opening after the departures of West Jefferson and Madison Plains.
Fisher said the league would have been a perfect alternative because of size, distance and competition.
Fisher said that another option for BV was the Central Buckeye Conference, but the distances to member schools in that league would be greater than the other options.
“In their current system, we weren’t a great fit, but they were willing to look for a bunch of different avenues (to make us fit),” Fisher said. “The funny thing about that league is that our school looks like all of the schools in that league. We’re all the same size. The problem is (the distance) — most of the schools are 75 miles away.”
The worst-case scenario for BV was to become independent.
“If a school ever becomes an independent, you don’t get the recognition you deserve,” Fisher said. “We have a banquet here for (all-league winners). Then when you go to the districts, you’re less known because you have no (publicity) in terms of what you’ve done in your league. It’s harder to sell and the kids get shorted.”
Fisher is relieved BV is staying in the MOAC.
“At no time were we using other leagues as a bargaining chip,” Fisher said. “What’s good about this is that a lot of places looked around and saw what was out there and, honestly, I don’t know how you can find anything more perfect than what we have.”
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.