SEOAL could ease Ironton#039;s independent problems

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 26, 2004

Being a successful independent has its positive points, but it also comes with some negative baggage.

The most glaring problem for an independent is finding a full schedule almost every season.

Just ask the Ironton Fighting Tigers, one of the most notable independent schools in Ohio and the Tri-State.

Email newsletter signup

But Ironton has a possible solution on the table. The Southeastern Ohio Athletic League has consulted Ironton, Portsmouth, Chillicothe and Zanesville about the possibility of joining existing members Athens, Gallipolis, Jackson, Logan, Marietta and Warren to form a 10-team conference.

Ironton, which left the SEOAL in 1985 to join the now defunct Ohio-Kentucky Athletic Conference, is appreciative of the consideration and would be optimistic if some details in the SEOAL bylaws can be amended. Athletic director Terry Parker said discussions are only in the early stages.

"We've had some positive dialogue with the SEOAL representatives. There are a lot of proposals on the table at this time and the league has been very flexible regarding these proposals," Parker said.

"Everyone is working toward the best possible situation for all the teams involved. Every school has its concerns, while everyone is working to resolve those concerns."

One proposal would divide the league into two divisions. In football, each school would play every team in its division plus some out of division games. The plan would allow each team the opportunity to keep some key local rivalries such as Ironton-Ashland and Ironton-Wheelersburg.

Parker likes the idea of limiting the league schedule to continue longtime rivalries.

"Ashland and Ironton have played almost every season for nearly 100 years. It's a great series for the fans and financially for both schools," Parker said.

"We're playing Portsmouth West and Wheelersburg out of the SOC and we would like to continue those series. Our relationship with the SOC schools has been very positive. It would be advantageous for all of the schools involved to maintain our series."

In basketball, schools would play each team in its division twice and teams in the other division once. A possible playoff game or tournament would be held at the end of league play to determine the overall champion.

Track would have one league meet while baseball and softball could follow the same proposal as basketball.

Joining the SEOAL is not a "done deal" as some people have surmised, but Parker said remaining an independent could create even greater scheduling difficulties in the near future.

The only league options in the Tri-State area are the Ohio Valley Conference, Southern Ohio Conference, SEOAL, Tri-Valley Conference, and the Mountain State League in West Virginia.

The Kentucky schools do not have a league, but they are restricted by mandatory district play that is similar to a league schedule.

To complicate matters, Ironton may lose some current teams from its schedule in the near future.

"Right now, there are five leagues surrounding us," Parker said. "If we are unable to schedule teams from those leagues, we could be facing even longer trips."

The SEOAL is working diligently to reduce travel for all sports. One option being considered is intra-division play for some sports only with a one-day championship game or meet between the east and west division teams.

The decision to join the SEOAL will not belong strictly to Parker.

"Once we get a final proposal from the SEOAL in August, there will be a meeting with all the coaches and administrators to discuss the pros and cons. This will be a key move for our program one way or the other, so it's important to get as much input as possible before making a decision," Parker said.