GWOC shakeup: From 20 schools to 8, area’s largest conference in midst of significant changes

Having experienced growing pains, Greater Western Ohio Conference membership ultimately decided less is best.

The area’s largest high school affiliation with 20 member schools, the GWOC will be down to eight teams beginning in 2020 following Wednesday’s announcement that Trotwood-Madison will be dropped.

“It’s been a struggle and challenging year for the GWOC as a whole,” Commissioner Eric Spahr said on Wednesday. “The GWOC has had some instability in the past year. I think the membership wanted to solidify what we have moving forward.”

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The following are five significant changes the GWOC has undergone.

1. In the fall of 2016, Tippecanoe and Stebbins joined the GWOC. This was significant in two major ways. Already the largest affiliation in area history, that boosted membership to 20 teams. It also caused a membership shift in the Central Buckeye Conference, in which Tipp and Stebbins left to join the GWOC, and the Ohio Heritage Conference.

“That was an amicable split in terms of the smaller and bigger schools going their separate ways,” GWOC Commissioner Eric Spahr said on Wednesday. “There was no animosity. The phrase less is more has come to fruition. We’ve talked to larger other conferences that have smaller numbers. It just seems to work better given the disparity in enrollment and numbers.”

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2. Also that fall, the GWOC was realigned. The conference had been separated by divisions ever since the merger of the old Western Ohio League and Greater Miami Valley Conference in 2001. This latest realignment went from three divisions of six teams to two conferences, the American and National, and four divisions, the American North and South, and the National East and West.

However, six teams were lumped in the American North, five in the American South, five in the National East and just four in the National West. That’s the lineup that still exists, but not for long.

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3. In February of this year, 10 GWOC American Conference schools announced they would leave to reform the Miami Valley League beginning the 2019-20 school year: Butler, Fairborn, Greenville, Piqua, Sidney, Stebbins, Tippecanoe, Troy, West Carrollton and Xenia.

However, Trotwood-Madison was the only GWOC American Conference team not invited to join the MVL. The remaining GWOC teams responded by welcoming Trotwood to stay put and make it a 10-team conference: Beavercreek, Centerville, Fairmont, Lebanon, Miamisburg, Northmont, Springboro, Springfield, Trotwood-Madison and Wayne.

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4. Lebanon, the southern-most located GWOC school in Warren County, had already been turned down for membership to the Eastern Cincinnati Conference. But that changed in mid-November when the ECC announced it would add Lebanon, Little Miami and Winton Woods beginning the fall of 2020.

Lebanon leaving the GWOC quickly set in motion what ultimately led to Trotwood’s dismissal from the GWOC a month later.

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5. On Wednesday, Spahr announced that athletic directors from the eventual remaining eight GWOC teams – excluding Lebanon – had voted Trotwood out of the GWOC. There were three factors addressed:

• The odd number of nine teams, which “presents extreme and ongoing difficulties” according to a release.

• Trotwood’s disparity in enrollment. It has the smallest enrollment of all 20 current GWOC teams. The remaining eight GWOC teams are the area’s largest schools.

• Trotwood’s lack of teams in all sports compared to the other eight teams at the JV and freshman levels.

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“This was not a knee-jerk reaction,” Spahr said. “It was something that superintendents had labored over for months. It’s unfortunate that things played out the way they did. Chips just kept falling and at the end of the day, the conference looked at enrollment numbers and sports offerings and wanted stability.”

So, what’s next for Trotwood-Madison? New Rams athletic director Frank Russo said the Montgomery County school will prepare to transition as an independent.

“Everybody is optimistic that it’s going to get worked out some kind of way,” Trotwood principal Raymond Caruthers said. “All the kids knew about it and a lot of the alumni and community is aware of it. They’re keeping their heads up about all of it. We want to explore all options.”

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