It seems that sports leagues both at the college level and even at the local scholastic level are constantly changing and evolving. On Monday of this week, the Principals and Superintendents of the ITCL unanimously approved changing the league from it’s current two tier configuration to a more geographical based three tier set-up starting in the 2015-16 school year. The league has been a eight-school, two tier structure since it’s inception back in 2006.
But travel issues have forced the league to start looking at ways to help alleviate some of the pressure that students had with long bus rides, especially on weeknight games. “The main reason was travel and building and maintaining natural rivals,” Mineral Ridge Superintendent Damon Dohar said. “Non-football was an important part of the consideration, especially with travel during the week.”
The league will now have three tiers made up of five (5) schools in the Red Tier: Crestview, East Palestine, South Range, Springfield, and United: five (5) in the White Tier: Columbiana, Leetonia, Lisbon, Southern, Wellsville: and six (6) in the Blue Tier: Jackson-Milton, Lowellville, McDonald, Mineral Ridge, Sebring, and Western Reserve. In football the schools will be required to play cross-over games against league opponents in the other tiers, but they do have a “opt-out” clause if a school wishes to not play a particular school. That clause must be by mutual consent by both schools.
“Both teams have to agree to opt out, but finding games in weeks four through ten is not easy, so one of the schools may choose not to opt-out,” one of the league athletic directors remarked about the opt-out clause that the new alignment allows. “I think that will cause tension between the schools.”
In fact, several of the league football coaches have not been quite as receptive of the new alignment as the Principals and Superintendents, citing concerns over traditional rivalries and playoff computer points as being obstacles.
“I think its a bad deal. It makes traditional rival games difficult if not impossible,” one coach remarked. “I think it puts a damper on some of the traditional rivalries that have been around for a long time. With this set up, there are some neighboring communities that may not play each other for several years in a row,” another coach added.
“I believe the travel issue will improve for some teams under the new schedule,” one coach added. “Re-scheduling every two years can be a problem. Not only in the league, but out of the league will be difficult as well. Also the junior high, j-v, and freshman scheduling is an issue.” As the league will rotate cross-over opponents every two years in the new format.
Another coach of the league expressed his concern over the likelihood of schools accumulating enough computer points to become eligible for the OHSAA playoffs. “I do not feel this is a good move for the league. This alignment will hurt playoff chances because of the lack of guaranteed points.”
With the new five, five, six tier configuration, scheduling can become more difficult with the odd numbered tiers. Although expansion to a six-team, eighteen school league is not being considered currently, Dohar admitted that that is something being considered for the future. “Expansion is always a possibility.”
A couple coaches also echoed that they thought expansion would be necessary for the ITCL. “I would like to see some expansion,” one coach said. “Unless there is talk of expansion to a 18, 21, or 24 league (set-up), I cannot see this working out,” another coach added.
Of the seven coaches contacted for this article, just two of them were totally positive about the new alignment. “I think it is a good move. It’s kind of based on location and size,” one of them said. “It makes a lot of sense geographically. On a parent level, I can’t see the long travel of a week night game. I’m a fan of it for the travel aspect, but it makes scheduling tough,” remarked another.
They also added a philosophical remark, “Remember, it’s very difficult to make all sixteen schools totally happy. It’s hard to make everyone happy.”
Dohar also added, “The league will continue to improve and look for ways to improve.” Starting in 2015 the ITCL will see if this new change is an improvement for it’s members.
COURTESY: Lowell Spencer – ITCLFootball.net