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Published: Tuesday, 5/13/2008

Commentary: NLL has chance to become a perfect 10

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
<br>
<img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/assets/gif/weblink_icon.gif> <b><font color=red>ALSO</b></font color=red>: <a href=" /apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080513/SPORTS06/805130339" target="_blank "><b>Commentary: Rossford just right for SLL vacancy</b></a>
<br> <img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/assets/gif/weblink_icon.gif> <b><font color=red>ALSO</b></font color=red>: <a href=" /apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080513/SPORTS06/805130339" target="_blank "><b>Commentary: Rossford just right for SLL vacancy</b></a>
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If Rossford leaves the Northern Lakes League to join the Suburban Lakes League, as expected, what school would be the best replacement?

On the surface, current City League member Clay would seem to be a slightly better fit for the NLL than Napoleon.

The Eagles location in Oregon fits the general geographic profile of the NLL, which is composed of suburban schools on the periphery of Toledo. Anthony Wayne and Bowling Green are the only two which do not border Toledo, except for Perrysburg, which is separated only by the Maumee River.

Napoleon is closer than Clay in miles to only one NLL school, Anthony Wayne, and is roughly the same distance in miles away from Bowling Green as Clay. Clay is closer to the other five.

Clay would enter the NLL in the middle, enrollment-wise, with the league s fourth-largest boys enrollment (509) and the fifth-largest girls enrollment (461).

Napoleon although bigger and consistently more competitive in numerous sports than Rossford would replace Rossford as the smallest NLL school with 326 boys and 317 girls.

Aside from a somewhat negligible overall difference in travel distance, and smaller enrollment which Napoleon has proved a nonfactor in its current performance in the Greater Buckeye Conference which has larger schools than the NLL either Clay or Napoleon would be an excellent fit and a superb addition to the NLL.

So, which one should it be?

The answer, at least the long-term answer, should be both Clay and Napoleon along with a third school, Fremont Ross. The Little Giants, who currently compete with Napoleon in the GBC, would have the second largest NLL boys enrollment (540) and the fourth largest girls enrollment (502).

NLL commissioner Larry Morrison has confirmed that, should Rossford leave, the principals from the remaining seven NLL schools will vote between only Clay and Napoleon as the new eighth member for their league.

Morrison and Fremont Ross athletic director Art Bucci each confirmed that Ross has provided no official notice expressing an interest in joining the NLL at the present time. But Bucci did indicate that, if the NLL were interested in expanding its alignment to include 10 members in the future, his school would definitely be interested.

If the NLL were to select Napoleon over Clay as an eighth member, City League commissioner Ed Scrutchins could rest easy because the CL would retain its even-number (12 teams) scheduling flexibility for football. But Napoleon s departure would effectively kill the GBC, which currently has just six members.

As is stands, the GBC is an abomination of ridiculous travel, a fact that becomes even more obvious as fuel costs continue to spiral upward. Take one look at an Ohio road map and this becomes immediately evident with Findlay, Sandusky, Lima Senior and Marion Harding rounding out the present GBC lineup.

Current NLL member schools should consider helping not only themselves, but also improving the big picture in northwest Ohio.

Adding only Clay would keep the gas-guzzling GBC intact, but would greatly hinder the City League s football scheduling.

Adding only Napoleon would keep the City League intact, but would serve as a mercy killing of the GBC.

But creating a 10-team Northern Lakes League with Clay, Napoleon and Fremont Ross would make the league stronger without too much additional travel. It would also enable the NLL to assist three schools with which it has had long-standing non-league ties.

Although the NLL membership seems firm on retaining its eight-team format and owes nothing to any outsiders, a 10-team alignment might allow for some interesting changes.

Each of the 10 NLL teams would play just one nonleague football game and then jump into the nine-week league portion of the schedule. Each league game would be more important and likely more attractive to NLL spectators. And, considering the track records of the fans bases at Clay, Napoleon and Ross, this alignment would almost certainly create a significant revenue boost for the NLL.

Basketball scheduling might require some creativity, but could allow the NLL to develop more compelling interest via a league championship playoff similar to the one the City League has used successfully for many years.

The other sports schedules could all be easily accommodated in a 10-team format with some minor adjustments.

This plan helps Clay and Napoleon and Fremont Ross, but what would happen elsewhere with what remains of the GBC?

Sandusky could venture east toward the Lorain/Elyria area for a future association.

Marion Harding could return to compete in a northern Columbus-area league roughly 40 miles away. Lima Senior may struggle to find an association, but the Spartans aren t exactly in a perfect travel situation now, and went through an independent phase not long ago.

That leaves Findlay.

With its boys (783) and girls (761) enrollments perhaps viewed as too large for the NLL, Findlay would not likely be invited into the NLL. But the Trojans have already spent the first half of recent football seasons traveling extensively for non-league matchups. They have had multiple games against Columbus and Cincinnati-area teams, and last year opened against St. John s and St. Francis of the City League.

In 2007-08, Findlay played five of its 10 non-league boys basketball games against City League schools.

With Clay out of the City League and Findlay perhaps approaching independent status, the Trojans could partner with several City League teams to fill several bye-week holes in the football schedule, thus helping both parties. The list of City League members which could be potential matchups with Findlay includes traditional title contenders like Central Catholic, St. John s, St. Francis and Whitmer.

None of this is perfect, but much of it is better than what exists now.

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



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