Northridge defeated Columbus Hartley 60-56 in a boys high school basketball D-II regional semifinal at Trent Arena on Thursday, March 14, 2019. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

High school sports landscape continues to shift with new league

Members of four area conferences will be part of new eight-team affiliation

The high school athletic conference landscape shifted again Monday with the official announcement of a new eight-member league consisting of teams from Miami County (5), Shelby County (2) and Montgomery County (1).

The conference, which could have a name by mid-May, consists of Bethel, Covington, Lehman Catholic, Miami East, Milton-Union, Northridge, Riverside and Troy Christian. Three of those schools – Bethel, Covington and Miami East – were left in limbo when 10 schools from the Cross County Conference officially announced their intentions to leave on Feb. 20. Covington was reportedly invited to join those 10 schools but declined.

»RELATED: New league to debut in 2021-22 school year

Milton-Union and Northridge are currently members of the Southwestern Buckeye League, Troy Christian is in the Metro Buckeye Conference and Lehman and Riverside are in the Northwest Central Conference.

The new league will begin play in the 2021-2022 school year.

“I think each of our communities is excited about the opportunity,” said retired Covington athletic director Roger Craft, who will serve as the conference commissioner. “We’re all pretty familiar with each other. There are some common goals and the task at hand is to do the best for the kids. I’m excited to be part of it.”

»RELATED: GWOC realignment part of continuing trend

Ansonia, Arcanum, Bradford, Franklin-Monroe, Mississinawa Valley, National Trail, Newton, Tri-County North, Tri-Village and Twin Valley South announced Feb. 20 their intention to form a league. Those schools are located in Darke and Preble counties, with the exception of Bradford and Newton in Miami County.

Miami East senior Vincent Villella (middle) ran for three touchdowns. Miami East defeated visiting Bethel 52-28 in a Week 5 high school football game on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF
Photo: Contributing Writer

Craft said the new conference is focused on eight teams. While there is no current discussion of inviting additional teams the conference is open to the idea in the future.

“We’re just trying to get everything set up for 2021-2022. We wouldn’t hesitate to entertain that if the right school and right opportunity popped up,” Craft said. “Right now we’re planning on staying at eight schools. But never say never.”

»RELATED: Preble Shawnee leaving SWBL for new affiliation

One item for discussion is the conference future of sports like bowling, tennis and swimming. At least half of the schools in the new league need to field those sports to be eligible for league play. One option is finding other non-conference schools in a similar situation and forming a sport-specific league with them.

The new conference reunites former Southwestern Rivers Conference members Covington, Miami East, Milton-Union and Lehman. Local rivalries and cutting the cost of travel, especially for Milton with the SWBL and Troy Christian in the MBC, is a bonus.

“It’s going to be a highly competitve league, for sure, in all sports,” Milton-Union athletic director Mark Lane said. “First and foremost, this is something our community has wanted. It fits us well and it’s going to be very good for our kids and our school district. That’s by far the best thing about it.

»RELATED: Revival of Miami Valley League a nod to history, tradition

“We are very thankful for our time in the SWBL. We look forward to these next two years competing in the SWBL. There are probably not too many conferences as well run as that one, especially with the leadership of Gary Peffly. It’s an absolute tough decision to leave that league. We felt as a school district an opportunity presented itself that was too good to pass up.”

Among other league changes:

• The Greater Western Ohio Conference will drop from 20 schools to 10 next season and down to eight beginning with the 2020-2021 school year. Beavercreek, Centerville, Fairmont, Miamisburg, Northmont, Springboro, Springfield and Wayne will remain. Lebanon will drop out after next season and move to the Eastern Cincinnati Conference. Trotwood-Madison was voted out of the conference by the remaining eight schools following the 2019-20 school year.

• The 10 GWOC teams leaving the American Conference will form the Miami Valley League beginning with the 2019-2020 school year – Butler, Fairborn, Greenville, Piqua, Sidney, Stebbins, Tippecanoe, Troy, West Carrollton and Xenia.

• The SWBL goes from 14 teams to 11 with the loss of Milton-Union, Northridge and Preble Shawnee. Shawnee announced its intention to leave the SWBL for an unnamed new league last month.

• The Metro Buckeye Conference loses Troy Christian and drops down to seven teams.

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