VANDALIA – Vandalia-Butler City Schools administrators expressed dismay at published reports that question whether race is playing a role in the decision whether or not to leave the Greater Western Ohio Conference to form a new 10-member conference.
That possibility was discussed by athletic directors, principals, and superintendents during a meeting on Wednesday.
According to multiple published reports, the proposal would see all the GWOC American North teams – Butler, Sidney, Tippecanoe, Troy, Piqua, Greenville – combine with American South schools Xenia, Fairborn, Stebbins, and West Carrollton in a new league. Vandalia-Butler officials would not confirm any of the other schools involved in the discussions.
Trotwood-Madison would not join the new league and instead stay in the GWOC with the remaining nine schools in the National East and West Division.
Trotwood-Madison’s Principal David White questioned whether race was a factor in a report published on WHIO.com, saying the schools didn’t appear to be realigning based on geography or enrollment.
Vandalia-Butler Superintendent Rob O’Leary categorically denied that race was a factor and said that, if the subject had come up, the district would have ended its role in the discussions.
“Race was not a consideration at all, never has been, and never will be,” said O’Leary. “We would have walked away. That is not a conversation we are ever going to be part of.”
In fact, Athletic Director Jordan Shumaker said that no decision has been reached whether the district will end its membership in the GWOC.
“There have been no votes related to membership status at all,” said Shumaker. “They are simply discussions. I don’t have the authority to grab nine of my fellow athletic directors and vote to leave a conference or start a new one. That’s not how the process works.”
“Currently we are in the GWOC and we are looking at the concerns, having discussions, and ultimately have to do what we think is best for our student athletes,” O’Leary said. “This would ultimately have to go to the Board of Education for discussion and a vote.”
Shumaker said that the interests and needs of schools two and three times larger than Butler are different with neither being less or more valid than the others – just different.
“I don’t think there is any tension,” he said. “But when you talk about schools with 3,000 plus kids versus schools even smaller than us with 900 enrollment the needs are just different. That doesn’t make our needs more important than anyone else’s but it does make them different. These are not new issues which is why we are in the sixth iteration of the GWOC in 20 years and, just like we have done for the past 20 years, we are in discussions on how best to solve them. Everyone wants what is best for their community and their kids which is what we are paid to do.”
As an example, Shumaker said that the larger schools want league-sanctioned sports in lacrosse and boys volleyball – sports the smaller schools don’t play. He also said that the communities are different as are the competition level.
“We are all for increased participation but not if it is detrimental to the athletic department as a whole,” he said. “These are all issues we are talking about and deciding if we can solve as a group of 20 schools or are they solved a different way.
Since the GWOC began expanding in the mid 2000’s, scheduling issues, especially cross-over games pitting large versus small schools have been an area of concern for many schools.
An example is in 2012 and 2013 when Butler had Wayne as a cross-over opponent in football. Butler lost both games by a combined 95-40 score which included 14 points long after the game was decided in 2013.
O’Leary said the decision of whether or not to leave will be made after the consideration of multiple factors including competitive balance/imbalance, enrollment size, athletics offered, and historic rivalries.
“This is not about singling out any one school,” he said. “There are multiple criteria being used.”
Competitive balance, or the lack of it, in the “revenue” sports of football and basketball is likely one of the factors involved.
Trotwood-Madison has gone to either the Division II or III state semifinals in football for eight straight years including the DIII state title in 2017 with a perfect 15-0 season. In eight games against GWOC American teams in 2017, the Rams won by an average margin of 49.25 points per game.
Similarly, in basketball, the Rams have played 12 games against American Division foes so far this season and have won all 12 with an average margin of 45 points per game. Tippecanoe (16) and Butler (17) are the only two opponents to lose by less than 20 points.
In other sports, however, Trotwood-Madison is rarely competitive and in some cases, such as girls golf last fall, doesn’t even field a team, leading to imbalance in the opposite direction.
A meeting of Superintendents on Friday morning left O’Leary saying there appears to be “consensus” between the other schools about moving forward.
“From Vandalia-Butler’s standpoint, it appears to make sense,” O’Leary said.
Reach Darrell Wacker at (937) 684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.