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Published: Saturday, 5/10/2008

If Lakota goes to MAL, and Rossford goes to SLL, then ...

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Alignment changes seem imminent in both the Midland Athletic League and Suburban Lakes League on Monday.

Lakota, a charter member of the SLL since 1972, could be accepted into the MAL. That potential membership shift may have a domino effect on other area leagues.

Superintendents from the 11 current MAL schools will meet at Hopewell-Loudon High School at 9 a.m. Monday to vote on Lakota's application to join their league. A positive vote from at least nine of the 11 superintendents is needed to grant approval. If that takes place, the five-member Lakota Local Schools board would vote on approval of a switch from the SLL to the MAL at a meeting at 7 p.m. Monday.

Rossford, the smallest member in the current eight-school Northern Lakes League lineup, sent a letter of interest to SLL commissioner Jim Yeager in late April, indicating that it would consider a move to the SLL if an opening became available. Rossford would become the largest SLL school in boys enrollment, and the second largest in girls enrollment.

If Lakota does join the MAL, a move that would become effective for the 2009-2010 school year, and Rossford does subsequently join the SLL, that would create an opening in the NLL.

"First of all, we would wait for some word from [SLL commisioner] Jim Yeager regarding an opening, if there is one, and then we'll go from there," Rossford athletic director Chuck Cox said. "If there is an opening, then we'll consider what we should do. Right now, our next board meeting is scheduled for May 27, but we could call a special session for something like this.

"We would have to have some discussion about the possible change, and maybe even a public forum."

Clay, currently a member of the 12-team (14-school) City League, and Napoleon, a member of the six-team Greater Buckeye Conference, have each acknowledged interest in becoming the NLL's new eighth member, should Rossford vacate.

Given the tight time frame before the end of the current 2007-08 school year, like Rossford, both Clay and Napoleon are prepared to move quickly toward auditioning for membership with the NLL.

"We're getting some things ready in preparation," said John Hall, superintendent of Oregon Schools. "Obviously we want to be proactive on anything of this nature. We believe Clay has a lot to offer. Not only do we have good numbers [enrollment similar to NLL schools], we also travel well, and our kids and our fans have shown great respect for opposing teams.

"Our division, our size and our facilities are all pluses so, hypothetically, we're a good fit for the NLL. We've been a good City league partner and, whatever league we're in, we're going to make sure our kids have a positive experience in participation."

Clay would be the fourth largest school in the NLL in terms of boys enrollment, and the fifth largest in girls enrollment.

Napoleon superintendent David Watson said his school is also ready for action.

"Our school would be most interested in exploring the possibility of joining the NLL," Watson said. "We would consider the pros and cons, and look at [the possible move] with an internal team approach. I think we will move quickly. We have that ability as a small school."

Although Napoleon would be the smallest school in the NLL in both boys and girls enrollment, the Wildcats (Division III football, Division II basketball) have proved to be very competitive in the GBC, a predominantly a Division I-II conference.

"We would be a good fit for the NLL because of our close proximity and because we already play every school in that league in one sport or another," Napoleon AD Brad Musgrave said. "So, there's familiarity on both sides. What the NLL would find, if they don't already know, is that Napoleon travels well, so they're not going to see a dropoff in revenue when Napoleon comes to town.

"They would also find that Napoleon is a very classy, character-driven community. They're not going to see a lot of bad behavior from our coaches, players and/or fans. What we would bring to the NLL is a very competitive athletic program as a whole."

NLL commissioner Larry Morrison said if Rossford does leave his league, the Bulldogs could begin play in the SLL as soon as 2009-10, provided the NLL can retain a replacement to fill the void by then. Past NLL bylaws required a two-year notice for outgoing members, but Morrison said those bylaws were amended last month to waive the two-year minimum, if necessary, by majority vote of the principals from the league's remaining seven schools.

Thus, if Clay or Napoleon could be secured for participation for 2009-10, then Rossford would be excused for the 2009-10 sports schedule.

Morrison said the athletic directors and principals from all the NLL schools will meet at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning, at an undisclosed location, to "discuss whatever the next step will be if Rossford leaves."

Morrison confirmed the NLL will consider both Clay and Napoleon.

"What I am recommending is to set up visitation to Clay and Napoelon soon. That way, if Rossford does make the move, we would be prepared to vote on which school we would select to fill Rossford's vacancy. Once school is out, getting everybody together to make those visits would be difficult. So we want to have it accomplished by the end of the school year."

Rossford had explored a possible switch to the SLL back in 2000, when Northwood moved from the SLL to the Toledo Area Athletic League, dropping the SLL from nine to eight schools. But the remaining SLL schools were in favor of keeping the lineup at the easier-to-schedule even-number alignment then.

"I want to make it clear that the NLL is not forcing Rossford out," Morrison said. "They're a charter member with the league since 1956. But they have to do what's best for their student-athletes."

City League commissioner Ed Scrutchins is also preparing for a possible change (Clay's potential departure), which would have a significant impact on his league, most profoundly in football.

"Bill Nopper [assistant CL commissioner] and I are going to meet on Monday to discuss the possibilities regarding the football schedule," Scrutchins said. "With 11 teams, obviously somebody's going to have a bye every week, and it's hard to find replacements with most schools playing games in their own leagues. But, it's out of our hands. We don't have any control over it. Whatever happens, we're going to have to make the adjustment."

Contact Steve Junga at: sjunga@theblade.com or 419-724-6461.



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