By Brad Morris
As a former athletic director at Teays Valley, Mid-State League commissioner Jim Hayes knew it was a matter of time before the Vikings would have to announce that they were leaving the league due to their population growth for a new home.
And that time came on Monday when Teays Valley and Logan were invited to join the Ohio Capital Conference for the 2024-25 school year. The Teays Valley Board of Education will assuredly accept the invitation during its meeting on November 15.
“Everyone in the MSL knows about the population growth that Teays Valley has and that they’ve been looking to join a league that matches up with their enrollment better for a number of years,” Hayes said. “When I was at Teays Valley still as athletic director (in 2011), we applied to join the OCC but it didn’t work out for us then.
“All of the schools in the Buckeye Division have a good relationship with Teays Valley and Teays Valley has a good relationship with them. No one complained about the enrollment difference or anything, because of how competitive the Buckeye Division is. We understand why Teays Valley is leaving and we wish them all the best.”
When Teays Valley departs the Buckeye Division following the 2023-24 school year, it’ll be the first change for the division since Canal Winchester left following the 2012-13 school year for the OCC and was replaced by Liberty Union from the Cardinal Division.
“When you look at our seven remaining schools in the Buckeye Division, Circleville came over from the SCOL to the MSL (about 30 years ago) and the rest of the schools have been together for at least 40 years and a number of them longer than that,” Hayes said. “I know speaking as the commissioner of the MSL that our other two divisions would like to have the chemistry that the Buckeye Division schools have.
“The travel is great, they have solid gates, the schools are all similarly-minded and most of the schools can field seventh-and-eighth-grade teams in our middle school sports.”
Whether the Buckeye Division fills the spot that is being vacated by Teays Valley is up to the remaining seven schools, according to Hayes.
“It’s up to those seven schools with what they want to do with Teays Valley’s spot,” he said. “One of the problems I see right now is that not many schools are looking to change leagues that would fit with the Buckeye Division.
“If a school wanted to express interest in joining the Buckeye Division, I’m sure those schools would listen and determine what’s best for the division moving forward.”
Three of the schools most speculated about for possible inclusion in the Buckeye Division aren’t likely matches either due to their small enrollment (Cardinal Division members Berne Union and Fisher Catholic are Division VII in football and Division IV in all other sports) or for recent struggles on the football field (Westfall, which is Division V in football and Division III in all other sports).
The MSL previously approached Westfall about potentially replacing Canal Winchester in the Buckeye Division, but the district declined and stayed in the SVC.
Historically, Westfall has been considered a flagship football program in the Scioto Valley Conference with 17 conference titles and the conference’s only regional championship.
The Mustangs, however, have not posted a winning season on the gridiron since 2012 and have went 26-60 since then.
While Westfall would likely be competitive in “secondary” sports like baseball, softball, wrestling and volleyball in the MSL, it has also struggled for consistency in the other “major” sport of boys and girls basketball.
Liberty Union played the previous four football seasons in the MSL’s Ohio Division before returning to the Buckeye Division for the 2021 season.
For the first two years of that arrangement, the Buckeye and Ohio division schools played a crossover game, while each Buckeye Division school was free for the last two years to fill the open date with a school from another league.
Hayes ruled out the possibility of crossover games between the Buckeye and one of the two other divisions following the departure of Teays Valley.
“We’ve found out that the crossover games really don’t work too well in our league for football,” he said. “I imagine that our athletic directors in the Buckeye Division are getting ready to potentially post open date notices on the (Ohio High School Athletic Association) website for the 2024-25 school year.
“The problem with scheduling games with an opponent outside the league is it gets harder in Weeks 8-9-10 to where the only schools that are open are usually not a good match for our schools for a variety of reasons.”
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