Ohio Valley Conference turning 70 on Dec. 3

Published 2:58 am Friday, December 1, 2023

By Jim Walker


Can the Ohio Valley Conference apply for Social Security?

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One of Ohio’s oldest athletic conferences is turning 70 years old on Sunday.

Former Coal Grove Hall of Fame football coach James “Red” Dutey and Chesapeake icon Dave Smith were the two key figures in organizing the conference.

A meeting was held on Dec. 3, 1953 at Don Keyes Restaurant in Coal Grove. Tommy Hairston of Coal Grove was the first president of the league with John Miller of Oak Hill the vice-president.

Former Marshall head football coach and athletic director Charlie Kautz was the first secretary-treasurer with Smith taking over in 1955 and he held the position for the next 40 years.

Dutey later served as the league president for 15 years.

League play began in 1954 and the OVC has had a variety of schools as members since its establishment.

The six charter members were Coal Grove, Chesapeake, Rock Hill, South Point, Oak Hill and Wheelersburg. Coal Grove, Rock Hill, Chesapeake and South Pointers were members of the Lawrence County League.

A second meeting was held on Dec. 9 in Oak Hill to establish bylaws and the league officially began with the 1954 football season.

Fairland entered the league in 1956 and Wheelersburg exited in 1957.

Former Lawrence County League member Ironton St. Joseph joined the conference in 1962 and Symmes Valley — a consolidation of four smaller schools — joined in 1963.

St. Joseph left the OVC in 1979 and later joined the Southern Ohio Conference small school division. Symmes Valley and Oak Hill both left the league after the 1984 season to join the now defunct Southern Valley Athletic Conference.

West Virginia became involved in 1986 with Ceredo-Kenova joining to make a six-team league. Buffalo and Wayne came into the league the following season and the OVC was back at eight teams.

But Wayne left in 1988, C-K in 1991 and Buffalo in 1992.

River Valley joined the league in 2002 to make a six-team league but left a few years later to join the Tri-Valley Conference.

The OVC expanded once again in 2014 with the addition of Ironton, Portsmouth and Gallipolis Gallia Academy and remains a part of the current eight-team conference alignment.

Ironton will leave the league in football only in 2024 on a 3-year trial basis. The league will revisit its status after the 2027 season.