(Posted April 24, 2015)
By Sandi Latimer, Staff Writer
Madison-Plains Local Schools is looking to join a growing conference that not only focuses on athletics, but also the arts.
The school board cast a 4-1 vote at its April 21 meeting to join the Ohio Heritage Conference (OHC), a league of rural schools formed in 2001. Madison-Plains has been in the 22-team Mid-State League for the past three years after leaving the South Central Ohio League.
Athletic Director Matt Mason explained that the OHC has stability and is a much better fit in many ways for the school.
“They’ve had eight teams for 14 years,” he said. Schools in that conference are West Liberty-Salem, North Lewisburg Triad, Mechanicsburg, Greeneview, Cedarville, Springfield Catholic Central, Springfield Northeastern and South Charleston Southeastern.
“It is looking to expand,” he added, noting that Fairbanks and Madison-Plains were invited to join. “Fairbanks has already accepted.”
Mason further said that the conference would like to expand to 14 teams but would not identify any other possible schools. “Let them get us in first.”
He envisions two divisions with Madison-Plains aligned with Southeastern, Cedarville, Springfield Catholic Central and Greeneview, while West Liberty-Salem, Mechanicsburg, Triad, Northeastern and Fairbanks would make up the other division.
Madison-Plains sought membership in the OHC when it left the SCOL, but was not accepted.
“We joined the MSL because at that time we thought it was best for us,” Mason said.
One problem with MSL membership is travel time, he said. Many of the schools are in the Columbus area and team buses often get tied up in traffic.
“We started our baseball game late today because Bexley got tied up in traffic,” Mason said. “In this area, we may get behind a combine but we don’t get caught in rush-hour traffic.”
The average travel time for Madison-Plains in the MSL is 36 miles one way while in the OHC it would be 25 miles.
“It’s a great savings in time and money. I’m thinking about our parents and fans, as well as the buses,” Mason said.
The league’s school population figures also fit Madison-Plains’ demographics. Madison-Plains has 147 boys and 141 girls this year. Comparable figures in the MSL are 209 boys and 181 girls, while the OHC average is 112 boys and 120 girls.
The largest school in the MSL is Whitehall. The largest in the OHC is Springfield Northeastern.
While the schools are smaller, the football and boys’ basketball games draw larger crowds which mean greater gate revenues for each team. Mason figures if Madison-Plains were in the OHC, it could earn as much as $10,000 more a year from those two sports.
Mason recommended that the school join as early as the 2016-17 season or the 2017-18 at the latest.
“I have to see if we can get out of the MSL,” he said, adding that if he can’t get the school out then he’d have to recommend joining the OHC in the 2017-18 season.
Madison-Plains would have a four-year commitment to the new conference but could leave with a 24-month notice.
Currently Madison-Plains is a member of the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s Central District.
“In the new conference, we’d be playing mostly against teams in the Southwest District,” he said, which means he could seek permission to move from the Central District to the Southwest District.
School board member Dave Hunter opposed the move, saying he didn’t want the district to get a reputation for being a league jumper.
“I feel we’d get the reputation of a doormat if we become an independent and then we’d get beat up by everyone,” he said. he voted against joining the OHC.
Besides athletic competition, the OHC offers fine arts competitions for art, band and choir.
Superintendent Tim Dettwiller spoke in favor of the move, saying that after studying the pros and cons, the pros outweigh the cons.
“It’s what is best for the kids,” he said.