Seven of 10 schools attend the Federal League’s expansion meeting, some from an hour away.
As the Federal League looks for high schools interested in joining, it continues to look north.
In some cases, pretty far north. The league now has competition, too.
Seven of the 10 schools invited to an informational meeting on league expansion came to Fawcett Stadium on Wednesday morning to listen to the league’s pitch to expand.
The plan, according to Lake Superintendent Jeff Wendorf, is to grow the league north and have a north and south divisions, ideally with six teams in each.
Schools attending the meeting were Green, Wadsworth, Aurora, Barberton, Stow, Cuyahoga Falls and Twinsburg. Solon, Hudson and Kenston received invitations but are not interested. The league released the list to The Repository after a public records request was made.
If not enough schools express an interest in joining the league, Wendorf said, the Federal League will move forward with six teams and not make a “knee-jerk reaction” to having a six-team league.
That means the league is not interested in adding Massillon, the only Stark County school without league affiliation that will fit with the Federal League’s enrollment.
“There has not been any indication anybody else will be invited,” Wendorf said.
The Federal League has not given a reason why it is not interested in adding Massillon.
“We’re disappointed we were not invited to the expansion meeting,” Massillon Superintendent Rik Goodright said. “We will continue to follow the expansion efforts and search for opportunities in our best interest.”
As the Federal League looks to expand, and possibly grab a couple of Suburban League schools, that league held an expansion meeting a day earlier with more than seven schools attending it. The two leagues are competing for some of the same schools.
“That’s a fair statement,” Suburban League Commissioner Keith Walker said.
Merely attending a meeting is a vastly different move from actually applying for formal membership.
For the Federal League, the seven schools that attended Wednesday’s meeting have until July 15 to notify the league if they plan to apply for membership. Any school that applies to the Federal League needs five of the remaining six schools to vote affirmative.
“We’re just looking at what the Federal League is proposing, and the north-south thing is one of the reasons we came down because it’s a long way down south,” said Aurora principal Mike Roberto. “Some of the possibilities of having a north division make it intriguing, but we’re also on the small side of things (enrollment). We want to make sure it would be the right step for us, and we’re keeping our options open.”
Roberto said he would have to huddle with his superintendent and athletic director before deciding where to apply. Aurora also is interested in the Suburban.
Page 2 of 3 - Aurora is 46 miles away from Fawcett Stadium and plays in the Chagrin Valley Conference. Roberto said as many as 10 teams are planning to leave that league in the next two years.
“Which is why we’re interested in finding a home,” Roberto said. “We’re keeping all our options open. Any league that’s looking, we’re talking to anybody.”
Twinsburg attended the meeting and it is 42 miles away from Fawcett — the second-longest drive Wednesday for school administrators.
It is a member of the Northeast Ohio Conference, along with Cuyahoga Falls and Stow. Hudson and Solon, also members of the Northeast Ohio Conference, were invited but are not interested. Kenston, a member of the Chagrin Valley Conference, also declined the league’s invitation.
The attraction to Aurora is peculiar for the Federal League. Not only is it about an hour away from Stark County, but it would be smaller than the league’s current smallest school, Lake, by about 100 boys. Aurora is about half the size of the league’s largest school, Jackson.
Green could the key for both the Federal and Suburban leagues.
“Green is a big player in all of this,” Federal League Commissioner Joe Eaton said. “I look at Green and Wadsworth almost like a package.”
Is it a foregone conclusion that Green will leave the Suburban League for the Federal?
“I do not think that. If you had asked me yesterday, I would have said probably,” Walker said. “I don’t feel that way now. Currently, I think about half the Suburban League members would say, ‘Yeah, they’re out the door,’ and the other half would say, ‘No way they’re leaving.’ ”
Walker also attended the Federal League’s meeting Wednesday. He spoke highly of the league.
“After the discussion I heard today, I’m a little more confident they stay (in the Suburban League),” Walker said. “I understand Green’s position. All those Stark County schools are around the corner from them.”
Walker said Green has expressed concern about the ticket sales in the Suburban League. When Green plays Lake or Jackson, its ticket sales are better than Suburban League games.
“They play Lake and Jackson, but the question is do they want to add GlenOak, McKinley, Hoover and Perry? That’s a meat grinder,” Walker said. “When you go into the Federal League ... you better be prepared in football.”
Walker admitted the Federal is a stronger football league than the Suburban. However, that may be an advantage for the Suburban League, as well as proximity, as the league looks to expand along the same I-77 corridor as the Federal League.
“What everybody is waiting for is someone to make a decision,” Walker said. “It’s more the schools making a decision than the leagues making a decision. ... I don’t know what it’s going to take to get this thing moving.”
Page 3 of 3 - Looking at expansion
The Federal League held an expansion meeting Wednesday at Fawcett Stadium with seven Northeast Ohio high schools. Here’s a breakdown of the schools attending the meeting, those who were invited but did not come and the one Stark County school interested in attending the meeting, but not invited.
School Current League Males Fem. *Miles
Aurora Chagrin Valley Conference 387 370 46
Barberton Independent 496 435 24
Green Suburban League 617 687 12
Cuyahoga Falls Northeast Ohio Conf. 636 581 25
Stow Northeast Ohio Conference 651 687 28
Twinsburg Northeast Ohio Conference 545 545 42
Wadsworth Suburban League 629 554 31
Invited, but not interested
Hudson Northeast Ohio Conference 631 619 36
Kenston Chagrin Valley Conference 395 363 57
Solon Northeast Ohio Conference 685 643 52
Not invited, but interested
Massillon Independent 547 449 10
*—Distance is measured from Fawcett Stadium to high school