League dominoes — two are down, so is Clay next in line?

J. Patrick Eaken

The league dominoes are falling again — Elmwood is leaving the Northern Buckeye Conference for the Blanchard Valley Conference and Maumee is leaving the Northern Lakes League to fill Elmwood’s spot.

That would take effect in two years, unless the leagues are willing to release the schools earlier because they have another school ready to immediately fill their spot in scheduling.

Now that the NLL has a vacancy, will Clay finally get the opportunity to make the move from the Three Rivers Athletic Conference? Clay had the opportunity to fill the void when Rossford left the NLL in 2009, but the NLL chose Napoleon over Clay in a 4-3 vote.

Once again, Clay is not the only TRAC school that is looking to fill the void this time around, but Oregon City Schools has already let the NLL they are interested.

“OCS and Clay would be very excited if we were selected to be a part of the NLL,” Oregon Superintendent Hal Gregory emailed The Press. “We believe Clay is a good fit and we would bring strong competition to the league.  

“I am aware many of the TRAC schools have given letters of interest to the NLL.  The NLL is now requesting formal applications from those who put letters of interest in.  There has been talk of expanding the NLL moving forward, but we really do not have any first-hand knowledge of how many schools the NLL will choose to formally invite. Wish us luck,” Gregory continued.

The NLL announced last month it would be interested in expansion, so it may be possible that the league would add other schools besides Clay, possibly expanding to 10 or more.

According to the Ohio High School Athletic Association, Clay has 442 boys and 432 girls in three grades. Other TRAC schools are Whitmer (839 boys, 766 girls), Findlay (600, 575), Fremont Ross (454, 399), Lima Senior (429, 388). St. Francis (429 boys), St. John’s (383 boys), Notre Dame (390 girls), St. Ursula (332 girls), and Central Catholic (219, 209).

In the NLL, Clay would join Perrysburg (672, 580), Anthony Wayne (544, 538), Sylvania Northview (511, 503), Springfield (452, 432), Sylvania Southview (368, 377), Bowling Green (361, 353) and Napoleon (248, 258). It is not just about enrollment, Oregon Schools believes Clay would be a better fit demographically, too. In the TRAC, Clay has done well in many of the “non-revenue” sports like wrestling, baseball, softball and soccer, but not in football and basketball. 

The Maumee board of education voted 5-0 Monday to leave the NLL for the NBC. In the NBC, Maumee will be the largest school, currently housing 285 boys and 282 girls in three grades. Maumee will join Rossford (218 boys, 214 girls), Fostoria (207, 191), Eastwood (189, 173), Lake (185, 176), Otsego (187, 171), Genoa (185, 156), and Woodmore (138, 112).

Rossford, Eastwood, Lake, Genoa and Elmwood were members of the NLL in the 1960s and early 1970s when Maumee was one of the largest schools in the conference. Maumee has become landlocked by other districts and has no room for growth but the other NLL schools have been growing for decades.

“If the trends remain the same, we know that in the next five to seven years, several more schools will more than triple our enrollment,” Maumee athletic director Matt Szyndler said. “It’s the same with the Northern Buckeye Conference as well, but as the trends show the current communities in the Northern Lakes League are growing at a very fast pace compared with the other communities around us,”

Szyndler notes another data category that seems to put Maumee into more comparable status with NBC schools.

“In the Northern Buckeye Conference there are more multi-sport athletes,” Szyndler said. “This is a trend that has been occurring for probably six or seven years. We are noticing a lot of what has been happening within our own NLL is a lot of our student-athletes in competing schools are beginning to specialize. They are not doing it at the high school level — they are doing it well before they reach high school. 

“That is something that Maumee does not believe in. We embrace the multi-sport athlete. We always have and we want to continue doing that. That is one key area that is attractive to us about the Northern Buckeye Conference is that we know that it’s similar to our athletes. 

“To have successful programs, they need their best athletes playing as many sports as they possibly can. That is something that we are very passionate about, too, and that is something that we match up really well with them.” (— by Press Sports Editor J. Patrick Eaken/includes copy he wrote for the Maumee Mirror reprinted with permission).



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