The South Central Ohio League has announced that it’s looking to add teams, but league officials said Thursday that no specific schools are being targeted.
In a news release delivered Wednesday night, SCOL Commissioner Jim Winner said the league is interested in expanding from its current eight teams to 12.
The league’s goal is to have two five- or six-school divisions based on a competitive balance of athletes, not necessarily enrollment and geography, the news release said.
“We need to get some smaller schools more similar to East Clinton in size,” Winner said Thursday. “I give them so much credit. They’ve battled and battled and battled, but when you just don’t have as big of an athlete pool – of course, Clinton-Massie is an exception to that – it’s tough.”
East Clinton is the smallest school in the league by far, according to the most recent Ohio High School Athletic Association enrollment figures for students in grades 10-12.
Those figures show East Clinton with 298 students in those grades. Wilmington has 657, Chillicothe 651, Hillsboro 605, Miami Trace 521, Washington 478, Clinton-Massie 455 and Greenfield McClain 429.
Winner, Hillsboro Athletic Dave Dietrick and McClain Athletic Director Pat Stevens all said that no specific schools are being targeted at this time.
“I think we’re probably in a situation where we have to look at all avenues of keeping the league together,” Stevens said. “There’s a huge discrepancy between the smaller and the larger schools in the league and we’re on the small end of that. Of course, someone has to be, but you never want to be the smallest school in a league.”
Dietrick said looking to expand the SCOL is not a new concept. He said that when London and Madison Plains decided to leave the league a few years ago, the SCOL looked around and ended up adding Chillicothe and Wilmington.
“You try to associate yourself with like-minded and similar-sized schools. Who are they? I don’t know. Do they exist? I think so,” Dietrick said. “We’re just trying to put it out there that this is available and that we do have a nice competitively and geographically balanced league. This is just, hey fellas, look at this, we are here. Let us know if you’re interested.”
Winner said the SCOL is most likely looking at big school and small school divisions, with Clinton-Massie probably a small school team in most sports, but flipping to the large school division for football.
“I don’t think there’s a set list [of schools the league is looking at],” Stevens said. “It’s probably news that’s just starting to roll. It’s something we have to set down and look at. I have a list from when we brought Chillicothe and Wilmington into the league, but most of those schools are in a league somewhere now.”
Jackson does not currently have a league and recently applied to the SCOL for membership. That request was denied and Stevens said travel would be an issue in looking at Jackson.
Clinton-Massie and Jackson are 100 miles apart. The closest SCOL school to Jackson is Chillicothe at 36 miles. The next closest is McClain at nearly 60 miles. Hillsboro and Jackson are 68 miles apart.
Currently, the longest drive between SCOL schools is 66 miles from Chillicothe to Clinton-Massie.
In 2005, Greenview was invited to join the SCOL along with Clinton-Massie and East Clinton. And, Southern Hills Athletic Conference teams Fayetteville and Manchester have recently added football with no one else in their 10-team league to play against. But Winner said Fayetteville is joining the Southern Buckeye Conference for football only and Manchester would be another long drive.
“I don’t think that conversation has happened yet, and you have to be real careful when you start talking about recruiting other schools,” Stevens said of the SHAC schools. “That’s kind of a slippery slope because we play a lot of those schools in basketball, baseball and other sports.”
He said the league will have to focus on schools that may be looking for a league.
“I like our league. I like where we’re at numbers-wise. But that can always change,” Stevens said.
The SCOL first formed for the 1923-24 school year, then disbanded from 1931-35. It re-formed in 1936 and continued with various members until it disbanded again following the 1991-92 school year. It re-formed again in 2003-04 as a six-team league with Hillsboro, McClain, London, Madison-Plains, Miami Trace and Washington.
Clinton-Massie was admitted shortly after the league re-f0rmed.
East Clinton was voted in as a league member beginning in the 2012-13 school year, but Madison-Plains and London, which were more similar in size to East Clinton, announced not long thereafter that they would leave the SCOL to join the Mid-State League.
Chillicothe then Wilmington were the next two additions.
“We’re just really going to be exploring over the next month to see if there are any schools out there and see we’ll what happens,” Winner said.
“We’re strong. We’re here for the long run,” he added. “But we’ve got to accommodate all our schools.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.