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Athens votes to leave SEOAL

Just as expansion is about to begin, the SEOAL has started shrinking.

Athens, a charter member of the Southeastern Ohio Athletic League, has decided to leave the current league to join the Tri-Valley Conference.

The Athens Board of Education voted Friday to leave the SEOAL after 80 years. The Bulldogs will now be the largest school in a 13-team, two-division conference.

Ironton, Portsmouth, Zanesville and Chillicothe will be new members of the SEOAL this fall to join Athens, Gallipolis, Jackson, Logan, Warren and Marietta to form a 10-team league.

The departure of Athens could lead to other teams looking to leave in the near future and find alternative leagues or go independent.

Ironton has been an independent since the 1993-94 school year following the disbandment of the Ohio-Kentucky Athletic Conference. Ironton was a member of the SEOAL on two previous occasions, most recently 1967 to 1984.

With 10 teams and extensive travels, the SEOAL will be divided into two divisions. However, teams will still play schools in the other division on a rotating basis.

Due to contract obligations for the next two years, Athens won’t join the TVC until the 2008-09 season.

The Athens BOE had voted 5-1 in favor of expansion, but one school official said concerns were voiced at that time but no one wanted to upset other members of the league.

“If you vote no and the new teams still get in, they could be upset with you,” Athens principal and interim athletic director Mike Meek said in the Thursday edition of the Athens Messenger.

Athens officials are not concerned about the travel since the school is centrally located. The Bulldogs have struggled in the major sports of football and boys basketball.

The SEOAL is one of the longest continuously running high school athletic conferences in the state.