In a time where college conferences are changing by the minute, it appears high school conferences are starting to follow in the same pattern. Even though the Scioto Valley Conference has been able to hold its current form for several decades now, just about every surrounding conference has changed and is still looking to change. Recently, the topic of change has started to gain some momentum in the SVC as well, so the simple question to fans, coaches, and administrations becomes: Is this a good idea for the SVC?
My answer in this debate – if looking at it through the eyes of the conference as a whole – is absolutely not. This is something I have looked at in detail for a few years now, and my feeling is that the SVC does have some possible concerns moving forward; however, I believe these issues are and will be minor compared to the problems that could come with expansion or dismantling of our great league.
The Scioto Valley Conference has so many characteristics that other conferences are missing. The geography makes complete sense. I grew up in the SVC thinking Piketon to Westfall was a long drive, when in fact that 50 mile trip is considered the norm – and in some cases short – for some leagues. This allows for great crowds, great gates, and natural rivalries in multiple sports.
I also believe the SVC has had great competitive balance. In boys’ basketball, we have had six different champions (Piketon did share a second in this span) in the last six years. On the girls’ side, seven different schools have won a title in the last 15 years. In that same time frame, seven different football programs have won a league title as well.
There has also been more than enough tournament success from a variety of schools. Adena and Westfall volleyball, Paint Valley and Westfall football, six different basketball teams have been to the state in the past two decades, softball teams such as Piketon have been to the state, the baseball league’s resume speaks for itself, and too many individuals to mention in sports such as cross country, golf, and track have had great success as well.
Now, I realize the other side of this argument is concerned with the enrollment discrepancy over the past four or five years. There is a concern that some of the smaller schools are having trouble keeping up in all sports. My response to this comes from a few different angles and then leads to one of my major points in this discussion. First, I think we as a conference have to be careful to make rash decisions based on six or seven years of data (keep in mind the SVC just turned 50 this year). Secondly, leagues our size with our close geography can often go through spurts where families move from one district to another. This can really influence our league’s athletic balance for four or five years in a major way. This can be extremely difficult for the small schools to overcome.
This leads me to perhaps my most passionate comment on this topic. If I am looking at this debate through the eyes of the SVC, it is not the league’s job to become consumed with the well-being of every school. It is the league’s job to run a successful league. If at some point an individual school decides they are too big or too small for the league, then it is the job of that school to do what they think is best for their kids. At that point, the league would have to take a look at adding a missing piece.
This topic, which had started to gain momentum a few years ago, has recently gained even more momentum because of the interest that Waverly High School has shown in the league. Objectively, I do think Waverly fits in our geography boundaries, and the Tigers do have an enrollment, that although bigger than most SVC schools, does fit inside our extremes. The problem with adding a team – be it Waverly or any other solid school – is it pushes our league to nine schools which starts to influence scheduling in a major way, and it probably forces the league to eventually expand to 10 teams.
This immediately starts the discussion of divisions. I say be careful what you wish for in this matter. First, you are going to have trouble finding a local small school that plays football. Secondly, once you split into two divisions, a league really is no longer a league. I have asked several people here recently from split leagues their opinions, and their responses support this. Ask someone from Alexander (TVC Ohio) if Racine Southern (TVC Hocking) is in their conference and the Alexander person will tell you not really. Ask someone from Portsmouth Clay (SOC I) if they view Wheelersburg (SOC II) as a part of their conference and they will tell you no. My point is that a conference that splits is really gong to lose its identity and over time will continue to operate as two different conferences regardless of the name of that league.
A final point in this debate is I feel it is important for our league to watch and study what is going on around us. Schools are scrambling to find a conference and as a result some conferences are getting ruined and others are trying to become so big that they can’t even figure out enough names for all their divisions. I just feel the SVC needs to continue as is and allow the next decade to see what happens with the enrollment figures. As stated before, if an individual school decides something that forces change, then I would be all for taking a look at another school such as Waverly; however, if the eight schools are willing to stay linked together as one then why fix something that isn’t broke.
SCHOOL BOYS GIRLS
Adena 155 153
Huntington 153 138
Paint Valley 132 123
Piketon 179 192
Southeastern 149 144
Unioto 241 249
Westfall 185 207
Zane Trace 191 200
Waverly 235 226