New athletic conference in final stages: local athletic directors take opposite views

A large super conference composed of all the schools in the area has been talked about and rumored for years. The availability of scheduling to fill the schedules for the various sports, and the chance to compete on an even basis, at least according to school enrollment size were just a few of the possibles mentioned that seemed to make such a conference sound like a godsend.
Placing of the teams into separate divisions is based solely on enrollment of the member schools with an attempt to keep school size as equal among division members as possible. Any school which wishes to move up in competition has had the opportunity to do so and the time for making such requests has passed. Bishop Guilfoyle, for example has requested the move up to division one in voilleyball, instead of staying at a lower division where their enrollment would have placed them.
Teams in the same division must play all the schools in their own division. Schools may also cross over and play teams in other divisions if they choose, but will not be forced to play opponents in other divisions. This means that in most sports, old rivalries will be able to be continued.
There have always been negatives involved in the discussion however, to the point that for many years, such a super league was always turned down in the very preliminary plans for it, usually before any plan could get past the talking stage.
Now, 22 schools have gotten together and the dream seems about to come to fruition. Although not all the mentioned schools have all the sports that are being talked about, one-two-three or four division sketches have been drawn up and the involved schools have voted in favor of the measure. October 28, is the next meeting for the proposed super conference. Everything is finalized as of now, but is subject to possible change.
In one way or another, Altoona, Central Mountain, Hollidaysburg, Indian Valley, State College, Bald Eagle Area, Bellefonte, Huntingdon, Lewistown, Philipsburg-Osceola, Bellwood-Antis, Bishop Guilfoyle, Mount Union, Penns Valley, Tyrone, West Branch, Claysburg-Kimmel, Glendale, Juniata Valley, Moshannon Valley, Southern Huntingdon and Williamsburg have agreed to the forming of the super conference, to be referred to as the Mountain Athletic Conference (MAC). There has been one vote taken in which the member schools voted in favor of some or all of the sports, their schools are engaged in. The actual scheduling, admittedly one of the hardest parts of any such endeavor remains and there may be other votes, but at least to this point, the schools have agreed to form the far-reaching conference to begin as early as the 2003-2004 school.
Football is a noticeable exception. In Pennsylvania and particlarly in this part of the state, football is king. Failure of the conference to include football must be one of, if not the major negative concerning the MAC, because of the importance of football to the schools and the significance inherent in that sport not being included in any such grouping of high school sports the conference will oversee.
Membership differs from one division of the three member schools who have gymnastics to baseball and boys and girls basketball, which include all 22 member schools in four divisions.
Each division of each sport will have a champion and a separate all-star team, a point that is of major interest to many of the schools, who previously may have had little chance to win a title or have representation on all star teams in their current leagues, due to being a smaller school playing in a league with larger or more established programs.
“We are already playing many of the other schools already,” said Tyrone Athletic Director Tony Yaniello. “Only now we will do it as members of a consolidated league. We are giving kids more chances to win championships and for kids to become allstars with the increased number of divisions. That is the positive thing. We used to schedule many of the schools that now are in the same divisions with Tyrone. The divisions are set now, unless they make exceptions. For example, I don’t know if we have ever won anything in golf, competing with State College and Altoona. Now we have a chance with two divisions.Now Tyrone,Bellwood have a chance to win something!”
Schools which have had trouble scheduling games in various sports should theoretically, have an easier time getting games now with the forming of the MAC. Schools previously may have had to schedule teams from schools with much larger enrollment numbers.
“Some schools like Lewistown, Indian Valley who are borderline Quad-A,” explained Yaniello, “are giving us the argument that they have more sports than Tyrone, so since they are more spread out, they feel they can compete against schools like Tyrone, but they don’t feel they are can compete with State College or Altoona.”
Some leagues will cease to exist after being a part of District Six sports for many years. A few examples are the Central Counties Tennis League and the Blair County Baseball League. Although all or many of the present teams in those leagues will be in the same division and play most of the same teams, those leagues will cease to exist in at least name.
One of the major stumbling blocks is the fear of some of the schools that they will be forced to move to another division in the future without having a choice in the matter, if other schools seek admittance to the MAC. A present example is Belleville Mennonite, which is currently seeking enrollment. These schools feel they are giving up their decision-making power, which they believe is not a fair trade-off for the availablity of easing scheduling problems or the chance of more representation on an allstar squad.
How the MAC is viewed, in large part depends on whether the school is on the cusp and feels they would be the one to get moved or whether they are in a conference or league now where they are unhappy and don’t figure much will change in their present situation.
“I think it is more in words than it is in substance for us,” said Bellwood-Antis Athletic Director John Hayes. “The sports that we are involved with in the fall, primarily cross country, volleyball, won’t change a great deal. There will be an additional section here and there. As we move to the winter sports, it’s not going to be any different for us. The super conference per say, never came to fruition for us. In the spring the divisions that are there are not a whole lot different in baseball. In track and field, we will still be a part of the Mountain Conference, which is a confusing issue. One is the Mountain Athletic Conference, the other is the Mountain Conference Track League. Other than cleaning up some things, we really didn’t accomplish what we wanted. We are not in it in the winter in basketball, in particular. The idea is wonderful. I wish we could have a true super conference, but we were not able to erase all the ties, the little threads and ganglions that tie schools together. We couldn’t make the changes neccessary to create that. People just wouldn’t give up this or that to be able to do was needed in order to move to that. The diversity and number of schools and geograhic territory that this would have included was a major obstacle. The sports that we are involved in, we will continue to be involved in. We are going to go by the guidelines that this conference set up. It creates good competitve balance. The idea was right, it is just that there was too much opposition with some of the past traditions and associations for it to fly.”