The Greater Western Ohio Conference, made up of Division I schools including Springfield High School, could soon add two more members.
It’s not a done deal and no formal requests have been submitted, but current Central Buckeye Conference members Tippecanoe and Stebbins have inquired about jumping to the GWOC.
The CBC reacted this week by announcing its intention to expand, regardless if Tipp and Stebbins leave or stay. CBC Commissioner Mike Ludlow posted an online letter of notice that the conference is accepting letters of interest.
The CBC is made up of two divisions of 12 teams, most of which are located in Clark, Champaign and Logan counties. Tipp and Stebbins are both CBC Kenton Trail Division members.
“We’re predominantly Division II-type schools in a lot of rural, small towns,” Ludlow said. “It’s a pretty good size that we’re covering. It’s going to be tricky to find people who can fit and make it work. That’s what we’re looking at currently.”
The addition of Tipp and Stebbins would bolster the GWOC to 20 teams and deplete the CBC to 10. If that happens, the GWOC would add a fourth division of five schools each. Currently, the GWOC has three divisions of six schools, the North, Central and South.
Which GWOC divisions in which to place Tipp and Stebbins is the greatest hang-up. It would entail a major restructuring.
“We did send a letter of interest to the GWOC,” Tipp athletic director Matt Shomper said. “Their ADs met and provided us with a sampling of what they’re thinking. We just need to weigh those options against where we are currently.”
Tipp is in Miami County between North members Troy and Vandalia-Butler. Stebbins is the pride of Riverside in Montgomery County. Geographically, both would make better GWOC fits compared to the CBC.
That’s not in question. What isn’t so easy to answer is what makes the best GWOC fit for Tipp and Stebbins?
Stebbins is good to go, any division. Tipp has to decide if it wants to join a realigned GWOC division that includes West Carrollton, Fairborn, Stebbins and Trotwood-Madison.
None of those schools is a natural Tipp rival or even close in proximity compared to GWOC North members, which would stay with Piqua, Sidney, Butler, Greenville and Troy.
The jewel of the conference, the Central Division, would be pared to Wayne, Centerville, Beavercreek, Fairmont and Springfield, the largest D-I schools. Northmont would leave the Central and join another division with Springboro, Miamisburg, Xenia and Lebanon.
Student enrollment is a major factor in divisional placement. GWOC Commissioner Eric Spahr said geographic location, competitive balance, rivalries and even financial implications also are considered.
“Those are all the things that we try and factor in and it’s never an easy process,” he said. “It’s actually a very painstaking process to go through when you’re looking at realignment. It’s a very emotional process for those who are part of any conference change.”
No league commissioner has the authority to dictate membership; that’s left up to an executive committee of member principals. They’ll usually vote on a proposal submitted by another subgroup of member ADs.
The GWOC split into three divisions in 2006 by adding Miamisburg, Springboro, Lebanon and Fairborn after the Mid-Miami League folded. The merger of Springfield North and South dropped its membership to 16 in 2008. Previously independent, Greenville and West Carrollton were added in 2011.
Stebbins was the most recent CBC addition, replacing Miami East in 2006.
“You’re always wary, but you never know when it’s going to happen,” Ludlow said. “Fortunately, we’ve had stability for a long time. We’ve got an outstanding conference and Stebbins and Tipp have been great members. Schools ultimately have to look at what they think is the best situation for them. That’s what they let us know they’re taking a look at.”
There is precedent in Goliath conference numbers. The Columbus-based Ohio Capital Conference has 32 mostly D-I in four divisions, eight teams each. Ease of scheduling is a major benefactor.
“There is truth to strength in numbers,” said Spahr.
Spahr said ideally an agreement would be made by the end of the year so scheduling could begin in January. The soonest Tipp and Stebbins would join the GWOC would be in fall 2016.
“A lot of people think we naturally fit with some teams that are in the GWOC right now,” Shomper said. “We have to look at what the GWOC has offered us and decide if that’s a better fit.”
The CBC’s roots go back to the 1960s in the old Mad River Valley League. Those teams included current CBC members Shawnee, Greenon, Northeastern (which split into Kenton Ridge), Graham, Northwestern and Tecumseh.
“We feel we have a good product,” said Ludlow, the CBC commissioner since 2007. “We talked about it and you’re down and not happy. As we talked we thought, look, we’ve got a great thing going here. This is a chance to get better.”
Central: Beavercreek, Centerville, Fairmont, Springfield, Wayne
North: Greenville, Piqua, Sidney, Troy, Vandalia-Butler
New division: Lebanon, Miamisburg, Northmont, Springboro, Xenia
New division: Fairborn, Stebbins, Tippecanoe, Trotwood-Madison, West Carrollton