Inspired by a phone call I received from John Maple about the passing of his father, Paul Edwin Maple, back in January, I started writing a series of columns in this space on the history of the South Central Ohio League.
The series has been based on “A History of the South Central Ohio High School Athletic League,” which is actually a bound copy of a seminar paper Paul Maple presented to the faculty of the Graduate College of Ohio University, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a master’s of education degree in 1964.
The fourth column I wrote in the series ended in 1964 when Maple’s history ended, and for the past couple weeks I’ve mentioned that I planned to take the SCOL’s history on from there.
But when I sat down last week to write this column, it didn’t seem like the time was right to write the final chapter of the SCOL’s long and storied history. I had heard reports earlier in the day that five SCOL members might be seceding from the league, so I wrote a column partially based on that possibility.
The column was done and ready to go to print, but then Friday the reports I’d heard proved true when Hillsboro, Greenfield McClain, Washington, Miami Trace and Chillicothe released a statement that they intend to leave the SCOL at the conclusion of the 2016-17 school year.
That was odd because that was part of exactly what I’d been told the day before. And it was even more odd because on Thursday evening I called SCOL Commissioner Jim Winner to ask him about what I had heard.
Winner told me that as far as the SCOL’s athletic directors and principals (which make up the SCOL Board of Control) were concerned, they had absolutely, never ever, had any such discussions. But he also said that he could not speak for the league’s superintendents because he does not have any dealings with them. Then shortly before our conversation ended, Winner said, “But you never know. The world’s a funny place.”
I knew then that something big was definitely brewing.
What Winner was telling me, I believe, was that he didn’t really want to mislead me, but his hands were tied and he really was not allowed to tell me the whole story.
So Friday morning I went to get my hair cut. My barber is a Hillsboro school board member. As I was leaving his shop I told him I was hearing some crazy things about the SCOL. He said that was above his head, but from his quiet reaction it was not hard to tell that I was on to something.
A couple hours later I came to work and learned the bomb had been dropped, and that my column was now pointless.
It appears that Jackson will most definitely join the five schools that are seceding from the SCOL. I’ve heard the names of a couple other schools the league is considering, but since that information was given to me in private, I will keep it that way for now. But I will say that it appears the seceding schools are looking east for other schools to join them, maybe even a former SCOL member.
Since I’m a traditionalist, it’s sad to the see the SCOL dissolve. It’s the league my father played in, it’s the league my brothers and sister and I played in, it’s the league my sons played in. My sister and my father coached in the SCOL and both my brothers and I have officiated in it. I have covered it as a newspaper reporter since 1983.
But things change, the league is not as balanced as it once was, and what worked once upon a time does not necessarily work today.
I feel for Clinton-Massie, East Clinton and Wilmington, the three Clinton County schools that appear to have been left out of the new deal. I wish them well. They seem to believe that they got a raw deal. Maybe they did. I do not know all the details and probably never will.
The world of athletic leagues and conferences can be a cutthroat one, whether it’s at the collegiate or high school level. Every school has to look out for its best interests, and no doubt that’s what the five seceding schools are doing.
I wish them well, too. I hope this bold move doesn’t come back to bite them.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.