The Toledo Area Athletic Conference announced yesterday that Gibsonburg would become the eighth member of the league.
Gibsonburg will be a voting member of the TAAC on January 1, 2010, and will compete for league championships in all sports starting with the 2011-12 season, according to league commissioner Dick Nowak.
Currently the TAAC has seven full-time members: Cardinal Stritch, Danbury, Emmanuel Christian, Maumee Valley, Northwood, Ottawa Hills and Toledo Christian. Edon and Hilltop are football-only members. Emmanuel Christian and Maumee Valley do not sponsor football.
Nowak said the athletic directors and principals from the seven full-time schools were unanimous in favor of admitting Gibsonburg.
“No. 1, the size of their school is comparable to our schools,” he said. “No. 2, their facilities are great. No. 3, their student-athletes seem to be equal to those in our league, so that's going to make for more good competition.
“And finally, it rounds out our league. [Having eight schools] will help us tremendously because scheduling will become a lot easier. We think this is a good marriage.”
Nowak said the only concern that needs to be ironed out is that of scheduling. Gibsonburg principal Thom Loomis said that should not be a problem.
“We don't have a lot of contracts beyond next year that will hamper us [with scheduling], so we don't anticipate any trouble with that,” he said.
Loomis said the move to the TAAC is a good one because it will match the Golden Bears with teams that are comparable in size.
“I don't think it is common knowledge, but we are down in enrollment [from last year] by 81 students throughout the district,” he explained. “We're going to see our numbers decline further in the next four or five years.
“We had to look at the big picture for our students and for our sports. Our motivation was to level the playing fields as best we can.”
In terms of enrollment, Gibsonburg will enter the league as the TAAC'slargest school. According to enrollment figures provided by the Ohio High School Athletic Association and the schools, the Golden Bears have 138 boys and 132 girls in grades 10-12.
No other TAAC school has more boys, with Northwood having the next-highest total with 127. Northwood's 151 girls is the most, while Gibsonburg is tied with Cardinal Stritch for second.
But Gibsonburg's numbers are misleading. Last year the school graduated 110 seniors; that class was part of the census the OHSAA used to determine school size. Currently no class above the sixth grade has more than 100 students, while some classes in the lower grades have as few as 60 to 70 students.
Gibsonburg had been a member of the Suburban Lakes League since the league's inception for the 1972-73 season.
In May five current SLL schools — Eastwood, Genoa, Lake, Otsego and Woodmore — announced that they were forming the Northern Buckeye Conference along with Rossford. Fostoria and a sixth SLL school, Elmwood, have since joined the NBC.
At one point Gibsonburg applied to join the Midland Athletic League but was rejected.
Nowak said he is not concerned that Gibsonburg will look for another league to join in the near future.
“We talked about that within the league, and with the administrators at Gibsonburg,” Nowak said. “They emphasized that they were making a long-term commitment to the TAAC.
“We'll take them at their word that they are not window-shopping until a better deal comes along because we know they are people of honor and will stand by their commitment.”
Loomis said his school is excited about joining the TAAC.
“We're not looking for another league in the short-term or the long-term,” he said. “We think membership in the TAAC is a tremendous opportunity for our kids and our community, and we have no desire to move anywhere else.
“It's been a long, arduous process the last few years. Stability is a beautiful thing.”
Nowak said his league does not plan to add any more schools in the immediate future.
“For us right now, we are in a status quo mode — we're not looking,” he said. “Our five-year plan, though, calls for the addition of two more schools, and our 10-year vision is to have 10 teams or more and create a league with two divisions based on enrollment.”
Nowak declined to name schools that have contacted the TAAC about future membership.
Contact John Wagner at:firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6481.