New Philadelphia, Dover join OVAC
WHEELING — The Ohio Valley Athletic Conference is expanding once again.
By a unanimous vote during an athletic director’s meeting held at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling, both Dover and New Philadelphia were approved for membership, effective immediately.
The Tornadoes and Quakers become the 51st and 52nd members of the bi-state conference. However, the conference’s membership will decrease to 51 in a few months when St. John Central closes.
“Both Dover and New Philadelphia make good sense,” OVAC Executive Secretary Tom Rataiczak said. “Both schools have tremendous athletic programs, beautiful facilities and they’ll bring high-caliber competition to the conference, making the all-star games even more exciting and even push our athletes a little harder.”
Dover and New Philadelphia will both slot into the 5A class. No re-orginization of the classes will occur for the upcoming 2019-20 school year, meaning the largest class will have 12 schools competing.
Dover’s Board of Education approved a resolution to join the OVAC during its monthly meeting on Monday evening. New Philadelphia’s board will vote on the OVAC this coming Monday.
Both athletics directors — Dover’s Tim McCrate and New Philadelphia’s Matt Dennison — believe their schools and teams will be highly active and visble in the OVAC. They plan to compete in as many things as possible, beginning in the fall.
“We’re hoping to develop relationships and get some games out of the OVAC,” said McCrate, a 1989 Barnesville High School graduate. “The OVAC puts on spectacular championship meets, especially in sports like swimming, track, wrestling and golf. We want to be part of that and eventually we’ll take a good, hard look at basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball and the other sports as well.”
Dennison believes that what the OVAC offers its student-athletes doesn’t compare to any other conference around.
“It was a no brainer for us when we had the opportunity to join,” said Dennison, who also is the Quakers head football coach. “I think we’re going to be very active and jump into a lot of things next year. Our basketball coach talked to me (Wednesday) and wants to look at seeing if we can make it work to get into the tournament next year. I think it will be like that for all of our sports. It’s just a golden opportunity.”
Both newcomers currently compete in the East Central Ohio League and will continue to as dual members. That league, however, has a level of uncertainty after several of its long-time members have departed for either the Inter Valley Conference or the Muskingum Valley Conference.
“When the ECOL dropped to five teams, we began looking for another conference for our kids, and the OVAC just jumped out at us,” Dennison said. “We have great relationships with a lot of schools in the OVAC already, and to be able to expand that relationship with other schools is a great opportunity for our kids.”
The schools actually began the process that culminated on Wednesday in November. Rataiczak and a few other members of the OVAC brass travelled to Tuscarawas County to meet with the two schools jointly.
“When we talked to them, we weren’t sure if they were going to (apply) or they weren’t, but we laid everything out all of the possibilities, the requirements, etc. for both of them. And, both were very interested,” he said.
The other ECOL schools are Cambridge, Warren Local and Marietta, meaning now four of the five are in the OVAC.
“With the ECOL losing schools, we needed to find a home, and I think the natural home was in the Ohio Valley and in the East District (of Ohio),” McCrate said. “There’s a great sense of history in the OVAC that offers a lot of services and good things for our kids.”
This marks the OVAC’s first expansion since Nov. 2, 2016, when Columbiana Crestview was approved for membership.
Since then, however, Tyler Consolidated, East Richland Christian and Bishop Donahue have departed the OVAC and/or closed permanently.
¯ Two schools — Crestview and Steubenville Catholic Central — were not represented at the meeting.
¯ The basketball officials rate increase was approved by the membership. Varsity officials will now make $80 per game and junior varsity will make $50.
¯ Wheeling Central football coach Mike Young spoke to the crowd about the possibility of forming a committee to take a long look at mandatory football scheduling. The motion received a second, but the vote to form the committee failed.