Niles, Lakeview, Hubbard and Liberty are no longer contemplating leaving the All-American Conference. Rather, they will be leaving.
AAC commissioner Clem Zumpella said he received an official letter April 4 stating all four schools are leaving the conference following the 2009-10 season - following the second year of the conference's existence under a three-tier format. The AAC is a combination of the old Trumbull Athletic Conference-8 and the Metro Athletic Conference with Beaver Local being added in the mix.
He said there is a scheduled principal's meeting later this month and foresees a superintendent's meeting as well to discuss the recent developments.
"At this point and time, it changes the complexion of the league and what direction we want to go," Zumpella said.
Lakeview Athletic Director Mike DeToro and Hubbard Athletic Director Bill Agona said the two schools are in dissolution with many things in the AAC.
"If no change has taken place, we're looking to leave after this upcoming school year," DeToro said.
Agona agrees with DeToro.
"There's a myriad of things. There is not one single thing," Agona said.
Lakeview, Liberty and Hubbard are in the White Tier, the middle of the AAC with Salem and Struthers. Niles is in the Red Tier with Poland, Canfield, Howland and Beaver Local. Campbell, Champion, Girard, Newton Falls, LaBrae and Brookfield are in the Blue Tier - the smallest of the three.
Some complaints are about the scheduling situations, others about re-alignment. According to the AAC bylaws, total re-alignment takes place every four years.
Also, the Ohio High School Athletic Association recently released its enrollment figures for the next two years. Lakeview took a big hit - losing 71 boys.
Hubbard remained about the same. Liberty and Niles lost some, but not as many as Lakeview.
Zumpella understands where these schools are coming from.
"Every school has their own agenda to what they feel is best for their school," he said. "I respect that."
n Schools contemplate leaving AAC: The All-American Conference hasn't finished its first year of existence, but there are already teams looking for a league that better fits their needs.
Without any terms being official at this time, area athletic directors weren't able to divulge specific modifications to the AAC, which combined the former Trumbull Athletic Conference with the Metro Athletic Conference into a three-tiered league, but changes seem certain in the near future.
The conglomeration of the leagues seemed like a good idea at first, Liberty football coach and athletic director Jeff Whittaker said, because it gave several schools in the area an easier way to schedule games without having to travel as far. Yet that same idea may have resulted in what could soon be the demise of the 16-team conference.
''One of the reasons for trying to put the whole conference together was the diversity within the area, in terms of size, scheduling and being able to make it all work,'' Whittaker said. ''You have a lot of different schools, numbers wise, in the conference, so you have a lot of opportunity for crossover competition.
''Maybe that same thing could be one of the reasons why schools are looking in a different direction.''
Whittaker could not comment further on the subject, mainly because the superintendents of each school are the people who attend the monthly AAC meetings. Liberty isn't the only school that may be looking in a different direction. Lakeview may want to move on as well.
''Lakeview is exploring its options right now,'' athletic director Mike Detoro said. ''And possibly leaving the AAC is certainly one of those options.''
One of the deterrents with the AAC from schools such as Liberty, Lakeview and Hubbard, which play in the middle (White tier) of the conference, appears to be that they dislike being forced to play teams like Howland and Canfield, which have close to twice the number of students. Those bigger schools, however, do not have to play teams that are larger in enrollment. But that is only of the problems.
There also are several different superintendents who have varying opinions on the direction of the conference.
''Now you have 16 different schools coming into a room and they all have different views and ideas on how things should be handled,'' Whittaker said. ''As the demographic of the area changes, the demographic of the district changes. It's a constant evolution in the area. Teams are always searching for the opportunity that best suits them, which is obviously a good idea, especially with where the economy is right now.''
Schools that are rumored to be on the way out of the AAC are Niles, Liberty, Lakeview and Hubbard. None of those schools confirmed that they are indeed leaving, but the thought has crossed their minds.
"There are teams looking at different options,'' Whittaker said. "It's just a matter of people trying to find a fit that's best for their community and school system."