Joining SEOAL may not be right decision

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 28, 2004

When Jackson cast the only "No" vote regarding the expansion of the Southeastern Ohio Athletic League a couple of weeks ago, it was ironic that the vote was due to the added travel though Jackson sits in the most central location.

But Jackson has the right idea.

The SEOAL voted to accept Ironton, Chillicothe, Portsmouth and Zanesville as new members. Now it's up to the respective schools to determine whether or not it is a good move.

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Meetings are already being held and the pros and cons are being discussed. As for Ironton, there are a few pros to joining, but the cons may outweigh the pros.

The biggest negative is exactly what concerns Jackson, namely the travel. Ironton might be set in

football, but there will be a lot of traveling distance. So what's new.

Under Ironton's current arrangement, the Fighting Tigers have to do a lot of traveling. The difference is reflected in the other sports.

The shortest trip outside of Portsmouth - which is already on the schedule - will be one hour or so to Jackson or Gallipolis. Boys and girls basketball teams won't return home until about 11 p.m. and that's after leaving around 4 p.m.

That's a lot of time to be consumed when students have school work. And like I said, that's the return time after the shortest trip.

Sacrificing every sport for football doesn't seem to be the best route. Scheduling football will be difficult, but it always has been.

There are some concerns that boys basketball is going to have trouble scheduling, but that is year-to-year depending on how good Ironton's team is. Let's face it, if a team thinks it can win, it'll play. If there is too much doubt, Ironton has to find someone else.

Ironton left the SEOAL nearly 20 years ago because of travel. The OKAC proved to be a very competitive and profitable league until the inability to beat Ironton in football sent a couple of schools sneaking off into the night never to play again.

The travel in the SEOAL has changed, but for the worse. The league now includes Marietta, Warren and new members Chillicothe and Zanesville.

Chillicothe isn't a bad trip for football, but it's about an hour and 45 minutes by bus whether it's a weekday or Saturday.

And who wants to spend Saturday driving three hours to and from Zanesville or Marietta?

Ironton officials have a tough decision to make. The problem isn't having enough teams in a close proximity to play, it's having teams in a close proximity WILLING to play.

As I've said in the past, it would be nice to join the SOC if they would have Ironton. It's a very competitive conference and fits Ironton well size-wise.

So if I were asked to cast my ballot on election day - with all things considered - I'd have to cast a "No" vote.

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.