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Seneca East Rationale Explained

December 26, 2011 - Al Stephenson
When the call came, school officials said they would listen. After all, who wouldn't listen to a business proposal that might benefit your children? When all was said and done, Seneca East High School agreed to become part of a new athletic conference. My alma mater will exit my little sports world. Here's hoping they are not going so far away that I can't keep tabs on them.

I stopped in at the high school recently to talk to school officials about the new conference. I wanted to know the rationale behind the decision. I came away a little saddened by the move as I have a lot of friends in schools throughout the Midland Athletic League. I also came away with the feeling that Seneca East made a good decision and more importantly, for the right reasons. Let's see how the change came about.

Half a dozen schools in the North Central Conference decided to break away and form a new conference. There was some unhappiness between the smaller and larger NCC schools that I really can't fully explain. Suffice it to say that when Buckeye Central, Wynford, Colonel Crawford, Crestline, Riverdale and Bucyrus decided to abandon the NCC, they contacted some other schools. Three of those schools were MAL members - Mohawk, Carey and Seneca East. Ultimately Rigedale would become the tenth and final member of the soon to be Northern 10 Athletic Conference.

As for Seneca East, talks about conference realignment was nothing new. In the last decade there have been a number of conversations regarding changes to the MAL membership. Three new members were nearly added a few years ago. The new league proposal would make for a major change for SE although not so big for Carey and Mohawk. Mohawk (1962) was a founding member of the NCC with Carey joining a year later. They have ties with all of the NCC schools. Seneca East on the other hand will be venturing into a little more unfamiliar territory.

Though Seneca East had no serious problems with the MAL, there were some concerns. The biggest was the distance they had to travel to away games. As the old Seneca County League morphed into the MAL, expansion was west and north of Seneca East. As one school official noted, "when you send 7th and 8th graders out to play a basketball game that can't start until 5:00 because of travel time, it's nice to have them back home before 10:00." It's hard to argue with that logic.

Scheduling was also a concern in the MAL. Not all schools in the league have football. A school might call up a couple of weeks before a season started to inform that due to injuries they would not be fielding a team. Schedule makers would have to scramble to fill the void. Despite these issues Seneca East was not looking to leave. They would work around the problems as they always had. Rivalries would continue and friendships that developed between officials from the different schools would go on.

Then the offer came.

There is no question that the new conference was "football" driven. Ten schools all with football programs. Scheduling would be so much easier. Nine league games. Only need to find one non-league affair. Double round in basketball - two non-league games.

Seneca East was informed that Mohawk and Carey were going to take the offer. They were also told that other schools had an interest and if they did not act soon the opportunity would be lost. With Mohawk and Carey leaving the MAL, expansion would surely take place. That would likely mean greater travel distances for Seneca East.

When the decision was made it came down to one factor. Geography. The new league will be closer. Less travel time means a cost savings and kids won't be on the road as long. The deal was too good to pass up.

The view from my seat suggests that Seneca East school officials made the right decision. I hope the new league works out for them and I hope the MAL will recover from the loss of three of its members. I also hope that I can follow the exploits of Seneca East athletes for years to come.


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