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Published: Tuesday, 5/13/2008

Commentary: Rossford just right for SLL vacancy

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

By an 11-0 vote yesterday morning the superintendents of the schools in the Midland Athletic League approved Lakota High School as the league's 12th member.

Last night, the Lakota Local School board voted 5-0 to officially make the move to the MAL, beginning with the 2009-10 school year, thus breaking its ties with the eight-member Suburban Lakes League.

Times have changed since Lakota entered the SLL as a charter member in 1972, but the time is right for the Raiders to make a move.

Lakota has the second smallest boys enrollment (150, only three more than Woodmore) in the SLL, and the fourth smallest girls enrollment (168). And, the Raiders' athletic programs as a whole were simply no longer competitive in the SLL. In the MAL, the Raiders enter with the largest enrollment figures for boys and girls.

"It'll be a good relationship with them and I think they are looking forward to having us," longtime Lakota athletic director Tom Tucker said. "You feel good that they voted 11-0. There's nobody saying we don't really want Lakota in our league.

"Our coaches saw the enrollment change coming down the road, and it wasn't going to be too long before we were the smallest school in the SLL. They just thought it would be better for our athletes to be in a league that wasn't quite as big."

Now, with a vacancy in the SLL, the time is right for Rossford - a Northern Lakes League charter member since 1956 - to make a similar move for similar reasons.

Rossford is, by a large margin, the smallest NLL school. Its 261 boys and 217 girls (in the upper three grades) are 151 and 128 fewer, respectively, than the league's next smallest school, Maumee.

The Bulldogs, who compete in Division III in football (just four boys over the D-IV cutoff), play in an NLL alignment that has one D-I school (Perrysburg) and six D-II schools. In boys basketball, Rossford is the lone D-II school in the otherwise all-Division I NLL.

Those numbers have led to these numbers.

Rossford, which last won an NLL football title in 2002,

experienced a 4-36 varsity football stretch (4-24 in league) as recently as 1997-2000.

Some old-school Rossford folks may still be basking in glory of the 14 NLL boys basketball titles won or shared by the Bulldogs between 1962 and 1976. But they should look at more recent history.

Here's the last time Rossford's boys won NLL titles in other sports: basketball (1993), baseball (1987), wrestling (1985), golf (1984) and track (1971). The Bulldog boys have never won NLL crowns in cross country, soccer or tennis.

Rossford's girls basketball team last won an NLL championship in 1993, and that is the school's only girls league title in any sport, according to NLL data provided by league commissioner Larry Morrison.

The time is right for administrators and school board members at Rossford to give future generations of Bulldog student-athletes a fighting chance on a more level playing field in the size-appropriate SLL.

Based on current numbers, Rossford would enter the SLL with that league's largest enrollment for boys and girls.

If Rossford does seek residency in the SLL, that move would create a vacancy in the NLL, and the next question would be who should fill the void, Clay or Napoleon?

Morrison has confirmed that, should Rossford leave, the league's remaining members are preparing to visit both Clay and Napoleon so that a vote to pick between the two potential replacements can be executed in short order, hopefully by the end of the 2007-08 school year. That way, the new member could be brought in as soon as the 2009-10 school year.

- Steve Junga



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