St. Wendelin accepted into SRL

FOSTORIA Another Midland Athletic League school has found a new league home. Another is still looking.

St. Wendelin was approved Tuesday for full membership into the Sandusky River League, joining Calvert, Lakota, New Riegel, Old Fort, St. Joseph and St. Mary Central Catholic. The league will begin play in the 2014-15 school year.

At the same league meeting, Bettsville was denied membership into the SRL.

Commissioner Mark King said the league is excited about bringing St. Wendelin aboard.

“I think they fit the bill of what we’re trying to do,” King said. “They have a long standing academic and athletic comparison to our other members schools so we’re excited about adding them in.”

St. Wendelin athletic director Donene Smith said it was a relief to receive the 6-0 vote.

“A big weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” Smith said. “I’m most excited for the kids who will have league competition, league awards, etc. to (compete for).”

As for Bettsville, they remain the lone remaining MAL team without a new league home.

“At this point in time, they are not being admitted in the league,” King said of the vote. “We’re glad to revisit that down the road, but at this time, they’re not being admitted.”

The breakup of the MAL began in December 2011 when Carey, Mohawk and Seneca East announced they were leaving the MAL for a new league, the Northern 10, featuring a number of teams from the North Central Conference.

Hopewell-Loudon and North Baltimore followed suit in July 2012, announcing they were leaving for the Blanchard Valley Conference.

That led to the formation of the SRL in January.

While St. Wendelin wasn’t a part of the original six, Smith said the SRL was its primary goal.

“It was absolutely our first choice,” she said. “We have a good report with them. Our kids have a good competition with (those schools) and that’s definitely where we wanted to be.”

Smith said there were other league suitors but the SRL was the chief choice.

“I can’t say we looked aggressively. This is the only one we pursued aggressively,” she said. “Who wouldn’t want to play the schools next door? It’s where we wanted to be. Our kids have a history together with these schools.”

She said her coaches were all on board with the move.

“They all know and the whole coaching staff is thrilled and excited to have a home,” Smith said.

They’ve been granted full membership, which could include playing football in a local league again.

“We’re contracted with the Christian League in Michigan next fall but beyond that we’re not contracted to anyone. We’ll evaluate next fall and see,” Smith said. “We have some increased freshmen numbers and next fall we’ll have a better idea. We’re definitely not going to close that option off. We don’t want to join the SRL (for football) until we know we can fill our contracts for years to come. We’d like to do that.”

King said he hopes that’s a reality.

“We’re sitting with four with strong football programs,” King said. “If (St. Wendelin) solidifies their numbers, they can compete in the SRL.”

He said the league will continue to grow.

“We’re still sitting with a very proactive approach right now. We’re not done. We’re hoping for a full complement of football schools and non-football schools,” King said. “We’re at the infant stages of this league. I would love to be at the full complement of schools by 2014. We’re looking at different approaches and different ideas. I don’t think we can put a timetable at this time. We’re hoping to get to 10 member teams with eight football schools.”

While ideally he’d love to see that happen by the 2014-15 school year, King said there are already solutions being discussed if it doesn’t happen.

“We’re looking at different scheduling approaches if we don’t get to that number,” King said “We’d like to be to six (football schools) by 2014 but we’d love even more to be at eight.”

King said there is no simple solution to league numbers.

“We’re looking for quality, not just quantity. We can’t just make a quick fix just to enhance 2014. We’re looking at the long road,” said King, adding that a variety of factors come into it. “Geography, size of schools, competitive balance, athletic sustainability and academics (are the things we’re looking at). We’re trying to build a league for years to come. We’re trying to build a league that we can take pride in and have for a long time.”