VINCENT, Ohio — In the long term, it goes without saying that a three-school athletic conference which probably won’t attract new members isn’t an ideal situation.
In the short term, however, Logan, Jackson and Warren — the three full-time Southeastern Ohio Athletic League schools that will remain once the upcoming 2015-16 school year concludes — are going to try and make the best of a difficult situation.
When they gathered for their inaugural meeting of the season Wednesday at Warren High School, SEOAL administrators — the league’s Board of Control — voted to approve proposed 2016-2017 schedules that include those three schools as well as three others who will be affiliate members in various sports.
With charter member Gallia Academy set to depart the conference at the end of the current school year — GAHS will go from being the smallest school in the SEOAL to the largest in what will be an eight-member Ohio Valley Conference — Logan, Jackson and Warren will be the lone members.
Once Portsmouth High School (now a full-time member of the OVC) left the league after the 2014-15 season ended a few months ago, the SEOAL’s full-time membership dropped to four schools… an all-time low as the SEOAL moves into its 91st season.
At this point, Logan, Jackson and Warren do not have full-time conference membership options available to them — more on that later — so Wednesday’s meeting affirmed that, rather than be considered independent schools, for the time being they will stay together, continue to crown SEOAL champions and name All-SEOAL teams.
While such a decision might be looked down upon by bigger, much-more stable leagues — everyone involved knows the conference’s long-term future is shaky at best — it was decided, for the short-term, to maintain SEOAL status for the sake of the schools, their student-athletes, coaches and fans and give them goals to shoot for while all three schools continue to seek other league alternatives.
In most sports, the 2016-17 slate makes up just a small fraction of games/matches for Logan, Jackson and Warren and doesn’t do much to alleviate a scheduling nightmare for those athletic directors in trying to secure non-conference foes.
In the main revenue sports, it will make up just two of 10 games in football and four of 22 games in boys and girls basketball. It does aid in sports such as soccer, however, where it will mean either eight (girls) or 10 (boys) games of a 16-match schedule.
The 2016-17 arrangement (as well as any others going forward) is fully contingent upon if/when Logan, Jackson or Warren find full-time membership in another conference. If/when one of the three schools does find a new, permanent home, that’s when the final determination will be made as to the SEOAL’s fate.
Affiliate members Gallia Academy (boys soccer and boys tennis starting next season), Athens (boys and girls soccer and boys and girls tennis) and Alexander (boys and girls soccer) understand the arrangement. Gallipolis (still a full-time member) and Athens officials were also in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting.
The first casualty of the league dropping to three full-time members, however, is the William E. (Bill) Thomas All-Sports Trophy: the award, named for the league’s founder, will be retired at the end of the current school year and the school that wins the chalice this season will keep it.
AST competition will be reinstated only if the SEOAL survives and expands to at least four full-time schools.
The BOC approved proposals regarding the All-Sports Trophy, the 2016-17 schedule and a new setup for determining All-SEOAL teams on Wednesday.
All-SEOAL teams in football, volleyball, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls tennis, boys and girls basketball, baseball and softball will now be determined based on the final standings. Each team’s head coach will select his/her own all-conference players, with each team receiving a certain number of athletes on all-league teams.
A couple examples:
Boys soccer — which, counting affiliate members, actually has the most participating teams (six) — will continue to get 19 players. The league champion automatically gets five players on the team; the second-place team will get four, while third and fourth places each get three, and fifth and sixth places both get two.
Plans are in place in case of ties for where a team finishes in the league. Each team will also be permitted to name one of its athletes honorable mention.
This season, the All-SEOAL football team will consist of 15 players (five for the first-place team, four for runner-up and three each for third and fourth places) and two honorable mentions. Starting next year, the team will be 12 players (5-4-3) with two HM selections per team.
There is one big change, however: a panel of print media that covers the SEOAL will select the Player of the Year in those team sports.
Representatives from The Logan Daily News, The Jackson County Times-Journal, the Gallipolis Daily Tribune and The Marietta Times — representing the four current full-time schools — will select the POY and, this season only, one additional area print media representative will also take part so that the panel will have five members and eliminate the potential for POY ties.
All-SEOAL athletes in golf (best scoring averages), wrestling (champions in each weight class), boys/girls track and field (winners of each event) and boys/girls cross country (top finishers in the league meet) will automatically be determined by performance.
Coach of the Year will automatically be the head coach of the team that wins the league championship. Co-Coaches of the Year will be tabbed if two teams tie for a title, and no COY will be named if three or more schools tie for a championship.
The Board of Control also voted to do away with having a paid assigner to obtain officials for league boys and girls basketball games. Those officials are already in place for the current 2015-16 school year but, starting in ’16-’17, they will be contracted by the home school.
Should the league ever expand to four or more schools, the BOC indicated it would likely return to having an assigner. There are only 16 total conference games (eight boys, eight girls) this season and there will be only 12 (six/six) starting in 2016-17.
Of the three full-time SEOAL schools starting next season, only Warren has another conference affiliation. Warren is now also a member of the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference, a conglomeration of 52 schools of various sizes based mainly in eastern Ohio and West Virginia.
Warren, which recently turned down an offer to join the East Central Ohio League (which includes Washington County rival and former SEOAL member Marietta) due to concerns over travel and school size, will play a minimum number of teams from the OVAC in each sport and will be eligible for conference championships and all-league teams.
The OVAC will become Warren’s primary conference if/when the SEOAL ceases to exist.
Logan continues to seek membership in conferences located north of Hocking County — Logan has expressed interest to the Mid-State League and Ohio Capital Conference — and Jackson has been turned down for membership by four different conferences.
Craig Dunn is the sports editor of the Logan Daily News and also serves as the media representative for the SEOAL.