By David Fong
Regional Sports Editor
It’s no longer a question of if the Cross County Conference will be splitting, but simply a matter of when.
At a conference board of control meeting Wednesday, 10 schools — Newton, Bradford, Arcanum, National Trail, Twin Valley South, Tri-County North, Tri-Village, Ansonia, Franklin Monroe, and Mississinawa Valley — submitted letters announcing their intentions to leave the CCC.
Four schools — Miami East, Bethel, Covington and Fort Loramie (which is a member of the CCC in football and girls golf only) — will remain in the CCC. Miami East, Bethel, Covington, Newton and Bradford all are Miami County schools. Fort Loramie is in Shelby County, while the remaining schools are located in Darke and Preble counties.
The 14 schools will remain together as a conference for the 2019-20 school year. What happens following that, however, remains to be seen.
According to Article III, Section 3 of the conference’s constitution: “Requests for entering or leaving the conference are to be submitted in writing to the secretary to be considered at the next Board of Control meeting. Membership must continue for two school years after the written request to leave has been submitted.”
Newton superintendent Pat McBride said if both sides — the 10 schools leaving and the four schools remaining — could come to a mutual agreement, however, the departing schools would like to leave after one year.
“I think we can all agree on two points,” McBride said. “The first point is, none of us are interested in leaving kids without a league. The second point is, if we can facilitate a way for all districts and schools to get out after one year, I think it would be best for all parties involved.”
Miami East superintendent Todd Rappold said the group of four remaining schools would explore their options moving forward. The most likely options would see remaining CCC schools finding more schools to join the conference or possibly splitting up to join existing conferences.
“The four remaining schools are going to meet and decide where we go from here,” Rappold said. “We kind of have to decide if we are going to go our separate ways or if anyone would like to join the new CCC.”
Rappold said he thinks it is unlikely the “new CCC” would be able to find a suitable number of replacement schools to fill out the conference in less than two years and expects the conference to remain in its current form through the end of the 2020-21 school year.
“When they turned in their official exit letters, they said they would honor the two-year agreement but would like consideration to leave after one year, if that’s feasible,” Rappold said. “I just don’t think that’s going to happen. I don’t think everyone grasps the time and effort that goes into starting a new league.”
Wednesday’s official exit has been in the works for several months. McBride said it began informally at a late-November luncheon involving school administrators from the Darke and Preble county schools. He said it began to gain traction in the following months before it was brought to the table at a January board of control meeting. It did not become official until Wednesday’s meeting.
McBride said the primary reasons for the 10 schools leaving are the difference in enrollment sizes between the schools and competitive balance among the different sports.
According to the Education Management Information System numbers provided by the Ohio Department of Education as of Dec. 3, 2018, the enrollment numbers for the 13 current CCC schools (leaving out Fort Loramie, which participates in football and girls golf only) for grades K-12 are: Bethel (1,508), Miami East (1,343), Arcanum (1,109), National Trail (1,025), Twin Valley South (866), Tri-County North (849), Covington (823), Tri-Village (800), Ansonia (719), Franklin-Monroe (641), Newton (618), Mississinawa Valley (600) and Bradford (510).
Covington, which is a mid-range school in terms of enrollment numbers, was invited to join the departing schools but elected to align with the remaining schools. Miami East entered the conference in 2006 and, since 2007, has won the CCC All-Sports Trophy every year. In football, the sport that often is the driving force whenever conferences realign, Covington and Miami East have largely dominated the conference.
Since 2006, Covington has won or shared eight CCC titles in football (2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016), while Miami East has won or shared three CCC titles in football (2008, 2015 and 2017). Fort Loramie won the CCC football title this past fall while also reaching the Division VII state semifinals.
In that stretch from 2006-2018, two of the 10 schools possibly leaving the CCC, Ansonia (2009) and TC North (2014), each won one conference title in football.
“I think we better align with the teams leaving the CCC in terms of enrollment numbers and competitive balance,” McBride said. “These concerns go back awhile. Around 2002 or 2003, Miami East had actually applied to join the CCC but was voted down because we felt they were too big. Several years later, Anna, which had been a member of the conference in football only, left to join the (Midwestern Athletic Conference) and the discussion went back to Miami East.
“When we visited that again, I voted no again for the same reasons. But the other administrators voted them into the CCC. They are definitely on the outer edge when you compare their enrollment to the other schools in the conference and are only continuing to grow. And Bethel has grown at an inordinate rate compared to the other schools in the conference the past few years. Those are some of the things you look at when you are talking about competitive balance.”
McBride went on to say he’s simply looking out for the best interests of the students within his district.
“There is no template for how to do this,” he said. “We just want to do what’s best for our kids.”
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong