FAYETTEVILLE – With the earlier announcements of Amelia and Norwood’s departure from the Southern Buckeye Athletic and Academic Conference, changes were coming to the league. The specific changes finally got a little bit clearer now that the Fayetteville Rockets are set to officially join the league for the 2017-2018 school year.
According to Fayetteville principal Tim Carlier, talks with the Rockets and the league began earlier this year.
“The conference found out that Amelia and Glen Este were merging so they decided to form a committee,” Carlier said. “They’ve talked to us in the past about us joining but it was for all sports. They came back to me last spring and said they would be interested in us coming in just for football. We had just joined the Ohio Valley Athletic League but we wanted to be a part of an established conference.”
The move seemed like a “no-brainer” for the Rockets, who were already playing teams in the SBAAC anyway, because it also saves the team transportation costs as trips to Dayton Jefferson and Manchester for conference games are no longer necessary.
“We’ve already played four out of the five schools in the National Division,” Carlier said. “We felt it was good for us. Not having to travel an hour-and-a-half, two hours like we did when we first started the varsity program. Most of the schools are within a half-hour, 15 minutes away. Logistically, it was the best fit for us but for them we’re already playing everyone except for Blanchester. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
Another positive gain for the Rockets is scheduling. Carlier is now the high school principal, but prior to that he served as the school’s athletic director, meaning he has a very good idea as to what challenges the Rockets faced when putting together their slate of games.
“One major plus for us, and any athletic director will understand, is that since we’re now in a conference scheduling [is easier],” Carlier said. “They give us a schedule and they also have officials assigned. That’s a big deal, instead of the athletic director finding officials the SBAAC has an assigner, so they’re able to handle that. That’s a major plus for us, when we were independent or in the OVAL we had to schedule our games and find officials.”
The talks with the Rockets began before Norwood’s decision to pull out of the league. Southern Buckeye Athletic and Academic Conference commissioner Pat Hill said both Amelia and Norwood brought good things to the table and will be missed.
“We’re sad to see them go,” Hill said. “We understand their reasons to make changes in their league affiliation. We enjoyed their time in the SBAAC.”
Hill also complimented the students themselves at Amelia and Norwood, and noted the conference itself is still strong together.
“Both schools have great kids,” Hill said. “I think we have one of the best conferences in the state of Ohio. Our athletic directors work together tremendously. I can’t say anything negative. It’s unfortunate they’re leaving but it’s understandable given what they need for their districts.”
Balance now becomes an issue in the SBAAC, as both schools that left the conference were in the American Division. Hill said the likeliest scenario involves one school moving up a division, but that depends on enrollment numbers.
“We needed to try to keep the American Division and National Division equal,” Hill said. “We’re not quite sure yet but most likely [Fayetteville] would move to the National Division. We’d probably then move one of the National Division schools over to the American Division just for football. We have to look at the enrollment numbers.”
Phrases like “likely” and “not quite sure yet” identify another issue the conference faces. Norwood’s announcement was only a month ago, and it’s still extremely early in the process. It’s still too early to determine which direction the league will go and how many schools they’d consider adding. After the Indians’ announced their decision, the league formed an expansion committee headed by league president and New Richmond superintendent Adam Bird. Even with the committee, however, Hill noted it’s still a fluid situation.
“It’s all up in the air,” Hill said. “Nothing is set in stone.”
One thing that is not up for discussion: the fate of Fayetteville’s remaining sports. Carlier made it clear the remainder of the school’s athletic teams would not be leaving the Southern Hills Athletic Conference.
“We’re staying in the SHAC for every sport except for football,” Carlier said.
Reach Garth Shanklin at 937-378-6161 or follow him on Twitter @GNDShanklin.