SOC should steal SEOAL#039;s plan

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 19, 2004

To join the SEOAL or not to join, that is the question.

And the answer isn't easy.

The Southeastern Ohio Athletic League has invited Ironton, Portsmouth, Zanesville and Chillicothe to join the 6-team league of Athens, Gallipolis, Jackson, Logan, Marietta and Warren.

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A look at a road map quickly exposes a major problem. Trips of three-plus hours isn't any fun for the players or fans. And the thought of going to Zanesville on a Saturday is not attractive, especially for those who get up for church on Sunday morning.

Another problem is size. There are a lot of Division I and II schools filled with a lot of athletes.

Ironton is in a holding pattern, merely listening to proposals and being asked for counter proposals. If Ironton does not choose to join the SEOAL, only two of the other three teams will be accepted, probably Portsmouth and Chillicothe.

Without some kind of divisional setup, Ironton probably won't consider the offer. Playing a basketball game at Marietta on a school night is bad for the athletes, especially from an academic standpoint the day of and after a game.

Regardless of the plan, the SEOAL isn't the best thing for Ironton, but it might be the only option other than to remain an independent.

Being an independent is probably better looking at the whole picture, especially since the best option will probably never come to the drawing table.

The best move would include the Southern Ohio Conference.

Think about it. Add Ironton and Portsmouth to Wheelersburg, Portsmouth West, Waverly, Northwest and Minford, then bump Lucasville Valley up from the small schools to the bigger school division.

These are all Division IV and V football teams. The longest trip might be an hour. Revenues would improve for all schools and the competition would be great for the fans.

Ironton already plays Portsmouth, Wheelersburg and Portsmouth West in football. Portsmouth plays Minford, Waverly, West and Wheelersburg. So what's the big deal?

We all know that answer.

Ironton's success in football continues to scare other programs, as does Portsmouth's. Ironton's dominance in football broke up the OKAC despite Ironton being the little guy among much larger schools.

Forget the fact the other schools won all the basketball titles, all but one baseball championship, and split the track titles. Football stirs the drink, even in a basketball state like Kentucky.

Remember, Ironton was part of the SEOAL before joining the OKAC. Ironton left because the OKAC provided less travel and more money at the box office.

The OKAC was a very profitable league and the SOC could become even more profitable.

To improve the SOC, or not improve, that is the new question.

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.