CANTON If expansion is coming to the Federal League, it will include Massillon and Warren Harding or no one at all.
The league strategic planning committee met Monday morning and took up the issue as three schools showed interest in joining the league.
Essentially, the league decided it needs more time to consider the ramifications of a 10-team league. Massillon, Harding and Mentor were the only applicants, and it was decided that Mentor isn’t a logistical fit, Federal League Commissioner Joe Eaton said. Mentor officials wanted to be considered only if there was interest from schools north of Stark County.
Eaton and athletic directors from the eight member schools — GlenOak, McKinley, Jackson, Hoover, Lake, Perry, Fitch and Boardman — will meet April 20.
“We want to consider what is best for the current league as well as future members,” Eaton said.
“We need to discuss further why it will work or why it won’t work. Of course, travel has a lot to do with it. League schedules have a lot to do with it. We looked at Massillon and Warren Harding very closely.
“We’re going to explore a 10-team format with Massillon and Harding in the mix. The athletic directors will come back to the strategic planning committee on April 21 with a recommendation, and we will decide then whether we continue to look at expansion.”
If they decide a 10-team league can work, applications for membership will be extended to the two schools. Then Massillon and Harding would make proposals in June.
A final vote would take place in August. Expansion would start with the 2011-12 school year.
Scheduling gets interesting in a 10-team format. The league would use a system similar to the Big Ten and other college conferences where two teams rotate off a given school’s schedule every two years. Eaton said historical rivalries would stay intact.
“In football, for example, in a 10-team league, we’re not going to play nine weeks of Federal League football,” Eaton said.
The Federal League predominantly includes the largest and most competitive schools in Stark County, with the exception of Massillon.
Washington High School Athletic Director Tim Ridgley has made it clear his school wants in the league and needs to be in it because of the expense of scheduling junior high school and junior varsity games with teams outside Stark County.
“We’re pleased we’re still in consideration,” Ridgley said. “I’m sure the Federal League will do the right thing for everybody, including the current members, which is most important. They have a responsibility to people in their league, and they have to make sure those people are taken care of. The fact that we’re a part of these discussions pleases us.
“It didn’t come as a surprise. We’ll see what happens.”
Inclusion of Harding could control some travel costs. It would give Fitch and Boardman another nearby league member and eliminate at least one trip to Stark County.
Eaton stressed there wasn’t any great opposition to exploring Massillon and Harding as member schools.
“If there was, we’d have taken a vote today,” Eaton said. “What we need to do between now and April 20 is find out if a 10-team league is in everyone’s best interest.”
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