By David Fong
Regional Sports Editor
In two years, a new conference with a heavy Miami County feel to it will begin play.
Eight area schools announced Monday their intentions to form a new athletic conference beginning in the 2021-22 school year. The eight member schools will be Miami East, Troy Christian, Covington, Milton-Union, Bethel, Lehman, Northridge and Riverside.
The new conference commissioner will be former Covington athletic director Roger Craft. The conference does not yet have a name, but that could be decided as early as the conference’s next board of control meeting on May 15.
The eight members schools currently are members of four different conferences and will remain in their respective conferences for the next two years.
Miami East, Bethel and Covington are members of the Cross County Conference, Troy Christian is a member of the Metro Buckeye Conference — and has competed as an independent in football since 2013 — Milt0n-Union and Northridge are members of the Southwestern Buckeye League and Lehman and Riverside are members of the Northwest Central Conference.
Troy Christian athletic director Jeff Sakal said there a number of advantages to his program moving to the new conference — decreased travel time to away games being one of the biggest.
“The Troy Christian Schools consider this an opportunity that will present a new start, new challenges and enhance the competitive spirit of our programs,” he said. “Our travel time to new conference schools will be considerably less with six out of seven districts being a commute of only 20 minutes or less. In addition, the decreased travel time will be positive for our educational component, which will afford our students the opportunity to return to campus sooner than our present conference trips.
“We also anticipate that the new conference membership will enhance our revenue production and our gates will increase. The close proximity of the school districts has the potential to create some great ‘backyard’ rivalries with school recognition and notoriety for our loyal Eagles fans. There new conference will also provide stability with scheduling, especially for our junior high programs. In addition, our football and wrestling programs will have a home and be able to compete for conference championships and conference honors.”
The seeds for the new conference were planted in February when 10 schools — Newton, Bradford, Arcanum, National Trail, Twin Valley South, Tri-County North, Tri-Village, Ansonia, Franklin Monroe, and Mississinawa Valley — submitted letters announcing their intentions to leave the CCC. Those 10 schools will begin play in a new, also unnamed, conference beginning in the fall of 2021.
Like Sakal, Milton-Union athletic director Mark Lane is excited about the opportunity the new conference presents for his program.
“We are excited to join the other seven school districts to form this new league,” he said. “Our coaches, staff, and community members are looking forward to building rivalries with local schools in our immediate area. We expect the level of competition to be very high in this new league as well.
“Milton-Union has a great relationship with the member schools in the SWBL, and we are very thankful for the leadership and relationships within the league. This was a tough decision for our school district, but at the end of the day, this was a great opportunity for the student athletes at Milton-Union. We look forward to building a strong new league that puts the focus on our student athletes.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong