Tuscola, OVC still exploring options

MONTICELLO — Tuscola High School may be entering the final inning of its Okaw Valley Conference membership, but the Warriors aren't yet willing to say game over.

Speculation has swirled in recent weeks that Tuscola will be one of seven schools departing the Okaw to form a league of its own. Athletic director Ryan Hornaday said it wouldn't be his first choice.

"Our stance, all along, is that we're happy with the Okaw," Hornaday said. "I wish, and I know our administration wishes, that nothing would change. It has been a good fit and our kids enjoy the rivalries. It's a prestigious league and we are happy with the status quo."

Meanwhile, athletic directors from the five schools that are firmly committed to remaining in the Okaw met on Monday. That group includes Monticello, Unity, Clinton, St. Teresa and Maroa-Forsyth.

Monticello athletic director Randy Moss said they are considering what to do in the eventuality that more than half of the Okaw schools pull out.

"We can't do a lot, but we want to make sure our ducks are in a row and we're ready to go," Moss said. "We decided to move forward. We haven't gotten official notification (of any departures), but we expect that and we need to be proactive. We decided to find potential schools that would be interested in joining the Okaw."

Moss wouldn't name specific schools, but sources previously had said St. Joseph-Ogden and St. Thomas More are among ones that will be invited to a meeting in July.

"The 'invitations' are not invitations to join, but 'let's talk about this as an informational meeting.' " Moss said.

The Okaw would prefer to continue as a 10-team conference — which would likely mean adding five schools — but Moss said an eight-school league would be an acceptable option for starters.

A revamped league alignment may not signal a drop-off in competitiveness. "We think the conference could be even stronger," Moss said.

Any changes are likely to take effect for the 2014-15 school year. The Okaw requires a two-year notice if schools intend to leave. Moss said there is some wiggle room on that timetable — as well as for adding teams — and some final decisions may not be made until as late as October.

Tuscola, meanwhile, is in a wait-and-see mode.

"We can't act on anything until somebody (else) actually does something," Hornaday said. "Right now, it's all speculation. Once someone makes an official decision, the dominoes will fall from there."

Hornaday said he won't be celebrating if Tuscola moves.

"We love the Okaw," he said. "We are not looking for something, but it may be the fact that somebody finds us."

With few exceptions, the schools considering leaving the Okaw are — like Tuscola — the smallest enrollment-wise.

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