The Greater Western Ohio Conference, which consists of 20 public schools from the largest communities surrounding Dayton, will split in half or more by fall of 2020.
GWOC commissioner Eric Spahr confirmed 10 current GWOC members – all in the American North and South Divisions - submitted withdrawal notifications and intend to form a new conference. An 11th GWOC school – Lebanon – also could leave, although the Warriors are looking to rekindle an alliance toward Cincinnati.
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This continues a recent trend of area high school conference changes:
• The mostly Springfield-based Central Buckeye Conference and Ohio Heritage Conference have undergone significant membership changes in the last two years.
• The Cross County Conference expanded its membership.
• The Greater Catholic League Coed could face a significant membership change and new affiliation.
• The Dayton City League’s football affiliation with the Southwest Ohio Public League has ended.
“Things are cyclical,” Spahr said. “This happens in conferences every 15-20 years. It’s part of high school athletics. Demographics change and communities change in terms of size and enrollment and things of that nature.”
The GWOC is divided into two conferences – American and National – and four divisions (two each conference). All six GWOC American North teams will leave: Butler, Greenville, Piqua, Sidney, Tippecanoe and Troy. Leaving from the GWOC American South are Fairborn, Stebbins, West Carrollton and Xenia.
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Those schools presented their intentions to leave and start a new affiliation to their respective school boards throughout the last month and had until April 1 to notify Spahr.
The split came just one year after Tipp and Stebbins left the CBC to join the GWOC. All 10 have significantly smaller student enrollments compared to the remaining GWOC members.
Several of the schools that are leaving weren’t actively looking to do so. Fairborn superintendent Mark North said the Skyhawks had three options: stay and play programs that are much larger, look for another league or accept the invite.
“They’re similar-size schools and the majority of them are close proximity,” he said. “Any school would have the opportunity to be competitive in any sport in any given year. That’s what every school that tries to join a league looks for. Where can you be competitive with all your sports year in and year out?”
GWOC American South member Trotwood-Madison has dominated in football and boys basketball and was not invited to leave, despite deep-rooted affiliations with most of the departing schools. One of the smallest enrollment-wise in the GWOC – 18th - the Rams won a Division III state football championship last fall and were runner-up in D-II boys state basketball this season.
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Trotwood is expected to stay with the remaining GWOC teams and join Lebanon, Miamisburg, Northmont and Springboro in the GWOC National West. The GWOC National East will remain Beavercreek, Centerville, Fairmont, Springfield and Wayne.
There will be no name change for the GWOC. No other area schools have inquired about membership, either.
“We’ve branded and marketed the GWOC for many years,” Spahr said. “It’s a strong name and it resonates throughout the state. We have no intention of changing that.”
Lebanon is pursuing the eight-team Eastern Cincinnati Conference. Lebanon previously was affiliated with those schools in the Fort Ancient Valley Conference from 1997-2003 before leaving for the now-defunct Mid-Miami League. Lebanon’s fate will be known by early May.
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Lebanon was on spring break last week and athletic director Bill Stewart was unavailable.
“A lot of that was where they’re at right now in terms of enrollment and location,” Spahr said. “They felt it was in their best interest right now to possibly pursue an opportunity to the south of them.”
GCL Coed Central members Roger Bacon and Purcell Marian have applied for membership in the 12-team, two-division Miami Valley Conference that consists of smaller to mid-sized Cincinnati suburban teams. The GCL Coed approved the merger of its North and South divisions in the fall of 2019.
The GCL North consists of Alter, Carroll, Chaminade Julienne and Fenwick. If Bacon and Purcell leave, the GCL Coed will likely pursue an affiliation with the Columbus-based Central Catholic League for at least football. The CCL consists of Hartley, DeSales, Ready, St. Charles and Watterson.
Also, the Dayton City League’s three-year football association with the SWOPL has ended. That was an affiliation between 14 Cincinnati and Dayton urban schools, many of which also play in basketball.
“This is nothing new,” Spahr said. “It’s part of growth and change.”