Red Knights to leave the EOAC in 2019-20

TORONTO — The Toronto Board of Education voted on Thursday for the school to leave the Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference, which is in its inaugural year.

The Red Knights athletic programs are currently completing the first of two years in the school’s original contract with the league.

The first season that Toronto will not have an EOAC schedule is the 2019-20 school year.

“The first year that sports schedules will be scheduled outside of the EOAC entirely will be the 2019-20 season,” Toronto Atheltic Director Chelsey Fletcher said. “The school board voted on January 11.”

Fletcher said the EOAC and its member schools were easy to work with during the Red Knights short time in the league.

“It has been a wonderful league to work with,” she said. “The superintendents and principals and athletic directors have been very welcoming. They were phenomenal to work with.”

The decision, according to Fletcher, is financially based.

“There were extraordinary league costs and increased officials rates. Our gates took a massive hit this year,” Fletcher said. “They limited what sports could charge. They had concerns about some of our parking fees.

“With higher costs and less ability to bring in money in other avenues it was just out of our financial league. Increased travel time was also a concern. It was largely prompted by financial reasons.”

Announcing it now is to give both Toronto and the EOAC time to adjust accordingly going forward.

“It was a two year minimum obligation which the superintendents agreed upon,” Fletcher said. “We had until May per the EOAC Constitution and Bylaws to notify them but we wanted to do the right thing and let them know as soon as possible, not only so we can fill schedules, but so that they can find a replacement school.”

That process of finding a replacement, according to EOAC commissioner Howard Friend, is too early to speculate about.

“We’ll have a meeting with superintendents in the near future to discuss this more,” he said.

The development came as a surprise to Friend and the EOAC.

“It’s a little bit of a surprise,” he said. “They had expressed some concerns in the fall, but we thought there would be a wait and see approach. We had hoped they saw value in being in a league because they were a good fit for us and got along with everyone.”

Toronto remains a member of the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference and Fletcher anticipates a schedule that will be OVAC driven in 2019-20 and beyond.

“We never left the OVAC so it will primarily be OVAC schools,” Fletcher said. “You’re taking seven schools out of the schedule so we have to replace seven schools. We have a lot of schools near us.”