What’s really up with the SCOL?


By Jeff Gilliland – [email protected]

So what the heck is really going on with the South Central Ohio League?

If you know, please let me know. Because from all the people I’ve talked to who should know, I’ve learned little. Or, at least little that I’ve been told I could print.

I know it’s a touchy subject for school administrators. I know they can say only so much without jeopardizing whatever it is that might be in the works. I know that sometimes, and this may very well be one of them, administrators are forced make decisions on the spur of the moment.

That’s what makes this all seem so odd. When so many have a vested interest in where and against whom our local athletes are going to be competing, and since we, the taxpaying public, are the ones paying the salaries of those making these decisions, doesn’t it seem like someone should have asked us what we thought?

Why did this all take place so quickly, and why does it seem so secretive?

If you can read between the lines, Hillsboro Superintendent Jim Smith was pretty telling Wednesday when he told the school the following before it voted on a resolution to terminate its relationship with the SCOL: “The reason (for passing the resolutions) is to bind the six districts together so that technically, one of them could not pull out and leave the others high and dry. This has been a long, strange journey, and not a pleasurable one, but it is where we are. We had to make a choice one way or the other and these are our closest rivals. I regret having to bring this to you, really.”

Thank you Mr. Smith. That is the most forthcoming statement I’ve heard so far about this mess.

But what I want to know is who initiated this move that has five current members of the SCOL – Chillicothe, Greenfield McClain, Hillsboro, Miami Trace and Washington – leaving the league to join Jackson in a new league? And why were the three Clinton County schools in the league – Clinton-Massie, East Clinton and Wilmington – left holding an empty bag?

From what I’ve been told, East Clinton was asked to join the group leaving the SCOL. But EC was already, by far, the smallest school in the league and needed some schools its own size to complete against. Adding a long trip to Jackson would have only made its situation worse. The Astros will be better off in the long run.

But why were Wilmington and Clinton-Massie left out in the cold? Was it because, as so many people have been speculating, that some of those other schools were tired of getting their butts handed to them in football by Massie, or in basketball by Wilmington? Is it because, as the SCOL said in a news release, that it wants to be affiliated with other schools in Ohio’s Southeast District, and Wilmington and Massie are in the Southwest District? Or, is there there some other factor?

It really doesn’t matter, because whatever the reason, the way it was handled was bush league.

Schools join athletic leagues for a sense of security, to make scheduling, especially in football, less of a nightmare, and to provide their student-athletes with the best opportunities possible. That being the case, why in the world would five schools suddenly decide to secede, then tell two other schools they were not welcome to join them?

No matter how green the grass appears to be on the other side of the fence, and unless there’s something I don’t know, you just don’t do that to people you’ve formed an allegiance with.

There are rumors that the seceding schools might be looking to merge with another league. But what league in its right mind would want to align itself with bunch of schools that just dumped Clinton-Massie and Wilmington like they were the plague?

Apparently, this all started a couple months ago when the SCOL announced that it was looking to expand. Jackson, apparently, expressed interest in the joining the league – for the second time in recent years. Some schools in the league wanted to add Jackson, but some did not – most likely the Clinton County schools – due to travel issues.

You would think school administrators would try to work things out. But apparently a few superintendents got together, figured it would be a good idea to look east for new allegiances, and decided they didn’t want Massie or Wilmington to come along.

What a nice way to treat someone who’s supposed to be your friend.

If everything works out, the move should be a good one for the five schools seceding from the SCOL. They will be playing against schools similar in size, athletic talent, geographic area, and with the possibility for further expansion.

But it just wasn’t done right. Massie and Wilmington should have been told: Hey, here’s what we’d like to do. It would probably be better for us if you didn’t come along. But it would not be right to just abandon you, so come along if you want.

From what I can gather, Hillsboro was not part of the group that originally decided to secede. I believe there were three or fewer schools that initiated the whole mess, Chillicothe quickly came aboard, and then Hillsboro was told it could come along or not. But that’s just my opinion.

It was interesting last week to see a column in the Chillicothe Gazette written by Dave Shoemaker, the boys basketball coach at Paint Valley, which happens to be a member of the Scioto Valley Conference based primarily in Ross County. He was writing about the schools leaving the SCOL, and Jackson, and posed this question: “Why not bring all six teams into the Scioto Valley Conference, then go with two divisions and have the Big School/Small School format?”

The SVC currently has eight teams. Unioto is larger than the rest of them. So Shoemaker’s idea was that the five seceding schools – or the five that have turned to the Dark Side, according to people in Clinton County – plus Jackson, join Unioto in a large school division.

That would leave Adena, Huntington, Paint Valley, Piketon, Southeastern, Westfall and Zane Trace in the small school division.

Funny, but that’s almost exactly one of the rumors I heard a few weeks ago when this whole mess broke. But, I heard just this week that someone with some weight in the SVC is nixing that deal. I’ve heard rumors of other schools that the seceders are looking at. But hey, what do I know? I’ve asked lots of questions. The powers that be are not speaking.

This week, the three Clinton County schools currently in the SCOL were invited to join the Southern Buckeye Athletic and Academic Conference for the 2017-18 school year. It’s a conference that both Hillsboro and Greenfield have been members of in fairly recent years and currently includes New Richmond, Blanchester, Amelia, Batavia, Bethel-Tate, Clermont Northeastern, Felicity-Franklin, Georgetown, Goshen, Norwood, Western Brown and Williamsburg.

The Clinton County schools have until May 1 to decide.

Should the Clinton County trio join the SBAAC, it would break into two divisions with the following alignments:

• American Division (big schools): Wilmington, Clinton-Massie, Western Brown, New Richmond, Goshen, Batavia.

• National Division (small schools): East Clinton, Blanchester, Clermont Northeastern, Bethel-Tate, Williamsburg, Felicity-Franklin, Georgetown.

Maybe everything will work out and all the schools will be better off in the long run. I hope so.

In the meantime, has anybody thought about the kind of whipping Clinton-Massie could put on some SCOL football schools next fall? Or of the animosity there might be between the seceders and Clinton County schools?

I doubt the coaches at the Clinton County schools would stoop that low, but you could hardly blame them if they did. I never thought a few schools would rip apart a league with roots that go back 93 years, either.

Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.

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