It depends on who you talk to and what version of the story you're hearing, but the result in each case seems to be the same....Orrville is seeking to exit the Ohio Cardinal Conference and either join an existing league, or form a new one....possibly as soon as a year or two from now.
I'll review what I've heard and where I think our ENTIRE athletic program would fit the best.
For the record: The Daily Record's Aaron Dorksen wrote about this very topic in today's edition. What you'll read below is 100% my original thoughts, research and opinions and was actually completed yesterday before Aaron's article was read. Just don't want anyone thinking I'm reacting to his article or pulling information from the work he puts in.
The first I had heard of this was just before Christmas...the rumor was that Orrville and Northwest would join the Principals Athletic Conference, currently made up of Tuslaw, Fairless, Manchester, Triway, Timken, CVCA, Indian Valley and Tusky Valley.
This rumor had the PAC kicking out CVCA and Indian Valley and adding Orrville and Northwest, making it basically a Stark County (Timken, Fairless, Tuslaw, Northwest) league with Manchester (Summit County), Tusky Valley (Tusc. County) and Orrville & Triway (Wayne County).
My initial thought on this proposal was that it was a little too much like the old All-Ohio league with Northwest, Triway, Fairless and Manchester being members of that, now defunct league.
My second thought about this proposal was "What about Wooster?" With them no longer a conference opponent, they'd now take up a spot on our non-conference schedule in football. We'd play weeks 1 and 2 against non-conference schools, play 7 weeks of conference games, and then have Wooster still in week 10. To do this, we'd have to have another school in the conference agree to play us in week 3. That, or Wooster would be played in week 3, before the 7 conference games...and that would just be weird.
Not to view this through the prism of football, but that's kind of how we do it in Orrville...but I think this would be good for football. Manchester & Northwest have been strong as of late, and Triway and Tuslaw have had good years lately too. I think we'd be among the top 3 favorites year in and year out, and it would be competitive among all teams most years.
This isn't so much an additional rumor as it is other teams that are being tossed around as teams that Orrville may want to form a new conference with. Teams I've heard were Dover, Cloverleaf & New Philadelphia to go along with us, Wooster, Timken, Triway & Northwest. Interesting group of schools in that list, but I'm not sure it solves the travel problem. A drive from Cloverleaf to New Philadelphia doesn't sound fun at all.
Why leave the OCC?
I think the big dissatisfaction with the OCC is the travel times and competitiveness across all sports. Orrville will probably never win a conference wrestling crown. Same with soccer, tennis (girls & boys), golf or baseball. Not a slam on those teams, but the OCC is primarily a Division 2 conference and we just don't have the numbers across all sports to compete in that conference.
I didn't mention basketball or football, but we've only ever tied for a conference title in football and have never won a conference title in boys basketball. Girls volleyball has had some success, but will always have Madison, West Holmes and Wooster to worry about.
Travel times are just a headache and let's face it, a big expense. When you have teams traveling to Clear Fork or Lexington on school nights and not getting back until 8:30pm, that gets old real quick....and remember, our teams from 7th grade up make these trips all school year long. So parents with multiple kids in multiple grades get to make several trips per week. It adds up the miles on buses, and costs a lot in terms of fuel and labor costs for a bus driver.
OCC expanding West?
The following article was brought to my attention just this past week. The website is called SwankOnSports and appears to cover the Mansfield/Ashland area high schools. His recent blog post is below, and gives more credence to the OCC expanding to the west, and possibly giving rise to both Orrville and West Holmes jumping ship.
Here's the entire text to the blog post......
I'd say take all of the above with a grain of salt, but it may be more proof that something is up...and it all appears to point to Orrville leaving the OCC.The “OCC” to Fold?Like a ten-point lead against Mansfield Senior on the basketball floor, the Ohio Cardinal Conference may cease to exist if the rumors are true anyway.The word is out that the Mansfield area schools (Mansfield Senior, Mansfield Madison, Lexington, Clear Fork and Ashland) are looking to perhaps sever their relationship with Orrville and West Holmes, and maybe Wooster. The group would then join with a combination to possibly include Ontario, Shelby , Galion or Willard. Ontario and Galion are currently members of the North Central Conference that will suspend operations after the 2013 and Willard and Shelby are with the Northern Ohio League.An administrator within the Ohio Cardinal Conference told Swankonsports.com that Orrville was seeking to form a league toward Stark County to reduce travel expenses. “If that happens I wouldn’t mind cutting lose Wooster and West Holmes and picking up Galion, Ontario and Shelby,” said that administrator. He said he looks for Orrville to leave the league within two years.Meanwhile, a coach in the “OCC” told Swankonsports.com that he understood that “OCC” was considering expansion with the addition of Ontario and Galion, but if that were the case the schools in the eastern part of the league, especially Orrville and West Holmes, would strongly consider dropping out due to the increased travel associated with adding two schools west of Mansfield. This source says the Mansfield area schools want to keep Wooster and the practicality of any new group may hinge on Wooster staying as part of the mix.Sources within the Northern Ohio League, currently with only six members, but adding Vermillion, say they have not been invited to any meeting to discuss any future affiliation outside of the “NOL.” Willard, last fall, held a press conference to announce its intension to stay as part of the “NOL” long term and Shelby has consistently said they want to keep the “NOL” going.Upper Sandusky, also out once the “NCC” closes shop, has been accepted by the Mid-Ohio Athletic conference and still another source has told Swankonsports.com that Ontario and Galion are considering entering that league, which would take it to 16 teams.Depending on who you talk to a meeting may, or may not, be held this week to discuss options regarding the Ohio Cardinal Conference."
What about the WCAL?
The simplest answer is also probably the one that has the least chance of happening. The WCAL would likely never vote Orrville into the league, and Orrville fans wouldn't like it either. Even after losing to Norwayne in the football playoffs, we still have a bit of a superiority complex and going to the WCAL would seem like a step down to many. I think across all sports, this would be a competitive fit and the travel would be great...but I just don't see it.
What would be interesting is if the WCAL expanded to 12 teams (adding Cloverleaf, Wooster, Orrville and Triway) and going to two divisions. One division being a "Big School" division made up of Wooster, Orrville, Norwayne, Triway, Cloverleaf and Chippewa...the biggest 6 schools in the area. The "Small School" division would be Smithville, Waynedale, Dalton, Rittman, Hillsdale and Northwestern.
An interesting proposal, but that's a lot of teams, and it would be a scheduling nightmare.
I know we all like the competitiveness that the OCC provides. I think we'd all agree that it helps prepare us for post-season in sports like football and basketball...but I don't think that across all sports, it's the right fit. Too many miles and we're just not competitive enough. Orrville and Clear Fork are the two smallest schools in the conference, and in most sports, it shows.
I think a change is needed, but not just to make a change...it needs to be the right change. Here's my suggestion for teams to be in a conference with if I could just pick and choose from local teams.
1. Wooster (Div. 2) - Natural rival across all sports.
2. West Holmes (Div. 3) - Lots of history, competitive games in both boys and girls sports.
3. Dover (Div. 3) - Bigger school, but one that we've competed with well over the years.
4. Triway (Div. 4) - Backyard rival.
5. New Philadelphia (Div. 2) - Dover's rival, think they'd need to be part of any league that includes Dover.
6. Northwest (Div. 3) - Close to home, good programs across all sports.
7. Timken (Div. 2) - Get to play at Fawcett every other year, and once/year at the Fieldhouse for basketball.
Longest drive in that list would be New Philly, but that's only once per season and would be much better than a drive to Mansfield twice a year (for Senior and Madison) and to Clear Fork and Lexington too.
This imaginary league would still be one in which we were one of the smallest schools along with Triway, but it seems (on paper) to be one where we could compete for league titles year in and year out across lots of sports.
So what does Red Rider Nation think of this? Do you like the OCC (travel, competitiveness, etc.?) and think we should stay? Or do you think options should be explored for a new conference alignment? I'd love to hear some comments.