YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A dispute over which tier of the All-American Conference would best fit Youngstown East and Chaney high schools has prompted a move by Youngstown City Schools’ Athletic Department.
The district will choose to play an independent schedule, starting in 2018, over a league affiliation with the AAC. The district released the following statement on Tuesday:
“After fall 2018, Youngstown City School District Athletics will be striking out on its own.
We have to do what’s best for our student athletes and at this time, that means going independent,” said Rick Shepas, chief director of performance and athletics at the city schools.
The district has been part of the All-American Conference for the last several years. Next year, though, the district wants to restart sports at Chaney High School, beginning with men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country, track, baseball, softball, and men’s and women’s rugby.
Two high school teams across the district means the number of student athletes will be split across the two schools. The All-American Conference generally assigns schools to tiers based on school enrollment with the Red Tier for larger-enrollment schools and the Blue Tier for those with lower enrollment.
Despite a lower enrollment however, East, has played in the conference’s Red Tier for football and basketball with larger schools including Austintown Fitch, Boardman and Warren G. Harding.
When YCSD proposed both East and Chaney being part of the AAC, affiliate schools wanted to keep both in the Red Tier for football and basketball.
“That doesn’t give our students the chance to be competitive,” said Superintendent Joe Meranto. “Why should we be treated differently from everyone else?”
That’s when the YCSD leadership team and the coaches and faculty managers decided to go independent instead.
“For our kids to have the opportunity to compete at a level that will give us the best chance to grow athletic programs at East High School and Chaney High School, we feel this decision is in the best interests of YCSD,” Shepas said.
Shepas and Meranto sent a letter Monday to AAC school affiliates formally announcing the withdrawal.
“On behalf of the former boards of education and long-time Athletic Director Ed Matey, I want everyone to know that we appreciate the conference affiliation that we have had and that we have enjoyed competing with all of your member schools,” the letter said. “Special thanks for allowing us to participate in baseball and softball in the Blue Tier. That was truly appreciated.”
The All-American Conference has now lost 9 of the original 21 schools that make up that league.
Girard, Hubbard, Jefferson, Lakeview, Niles, Poland, and Struthers announced their intention to leave earlier this season, to create their own conference called the Northeast 8.
Ashtabula Lakeside has also informed the AAC they’re leaving in 2019.
So far, Crestview is the only local team that has been added to the All-American Conference. The Rebels will join the Blue Tier, which is made up of Brookfield, Campbell, Champion, Edgewood, LaBrae, Liberty, and Newton Falls.