Woodmore, Oak Harbor make league swap official

J. Patrick Eaken

It  will soon be official — Woodmore and Oak Harbor will effectively swap leagues in two years.

The Woodmore school board has voted to leave the Northern Buckeye Conference and will join the Sandusky Bay Conference River Division, effective the 2023-24 school year.

That same year Oak Harbor will leave the SBC Bay Division and head to the NBC.

In addition, Elmwood will leave the NBC for the Blanchard Valley Conference, Maumee will leave the Northern Lakes League for the NBC, and Clay, Whitmer, Fremont Ross, and Findlay will join the NLL.

For Oak Harbor, it would mean less travel and likely a better gate. Oak Harbor left the Suburban Lakes League in the 1980s because it was larger than the other schools, but in the NBC, it would match up with schools closer to its size. 

A drawback for Oak Harbor is that the NBC does not sanction swimming or tennis, but four schools (including Fostoria, Rossford and Maumee) have tennis teams and Lake used to have a team when it was in the NLL. Some NBC schools, like Eastwood, Genoa, and Lake, have had swim teams or athletes competing in OHSAA meets, even qualifying for and winning state championships.

For Woodmore, it began with a survey sent to residents after the SBC voted to invite the school. Superintendent Tim Rettig said survey results showed that “overwhelmingly 67 percent said we need to do something different, and 60 percent said we need to go to the SBC River.” During a Thursday night board meeting, the board passed a resolution to make the move.

“For four years, we have been working on something. We have been everywhere from trying to create our own league, to trying to expand the NBC, to just trying to get us a better situation,” Rettig said. “This is the culmination of all that work. 

“Even the people who were here before me were working on trying to get something done, so we finally got something done. We are going to the SBC River and we are excited for our kids. We appreciate our years being in the NBC, but we are looking for a better situation for our kids and I think it is a positive for us.”

Currently, SBC River Division schools are Danbury, Gibsonburg, Hopewell-Loudon, Lakota, New Riegel, Old Fort, Fremont St. Joseph, Sandusky St. Mary and Tiffin Calvert. Gibsonburg and Lakota competed with Woodmore in the SLL.

“It is something that our board wanted to do,” Athletic Director Steve Barr said. “We have been pursuing a league change for a while, but it is something that this year has become a fairly hot topic with the board, and they really wanted to find a league that was closer to our enrollment. 

“The biggest thing is it puts us in a league that is a little closer to our enrollment figures,” Barr continued. “That is what all of us high school people are trying to do — get ourselves in a situation where we are competing with other schools that are all on the same plane.

“We are getting back in with some of the schools that were in the old SLL, so it is not like we are completely going to a league where there is no familiarity. We have played a lot of those schools in non-league games in a lot of sports. From a familiarity standpoint, it is a good move, and we’ll see what happens.”


Championships few and far between

Barr warns that it does not mean Woodmore will start winning championships right out of the gate, plus this past school year was the best the school had seen since joining the NBC. Woodmore finished fourth in this year’s NBC All-Sports points, the highest ever, but was one point away from finishing second. However, in the majority of NBC sports, Woodmore has never won a league title since the league’s formation.

“It does not guarantee anything,” Barr said. “I mean we will be near the top of that group in enrollment, but that does not necessarily mean that we are going to be the kingpin, so to speak, of that league. I don’t think that is doing to happen.”

Barr, who adds that Woodmore will miss league rivalries against teams like Eastwood and Rossford that travel well, says there is plenty of time to plan for the move, plus the athletes have two more years competing in the NBC.

“We don’t know now, it is two years down the road, and we still have two years to fill in the NBC. It is not something that is right around the door,” Barr said.

The sport typically affected the most by enrollment is football. Woodmore coach Curtis Schlea, a Woodmore graduate, welcomes the move, but he sees it as a move good for all sports. Since the NBC formed, Woodmore has not won a football championship.

“I think this is an exciting move for our school district. I don’t want to look at it just from football’s point of view, but as a school, I think joining the SBC River is a good move for all our student athletes,” Schlea said.  

“I feel that this is a long-term switch that is not just geared at benefiting just one sport, but all. This has been a long process and Woodmore’s administration has done a great job in getting input and views from not just coaches at Woodmore, but students and community members as well. Not everyone was on board for the switching leagues, but an overwhelming majority was.”  








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