The Northwest Conference merry-go-round continues and where it stops nobody knows.
With Leipsic being the second school to leave the Northwest Conference in the last two months, Ada being the other, the NWC finds itself searching for new members.
Leipsic, which has only spent two seasons in the NWC, has opted to move back to the Blanchard Valley Conference and Viking athletic director Joe Kirkendall said there were a number of factors involved in the return to the BVC.
Earlier this year the BVC sent an invitation to Leipsic to return to the conference and that led to the school board asking the athletic department for information and the athletic council met and their recommendation was sent to the school board.”
“When we look at where the BVC is now compared to when we left they have made some changes and it is just probably a better fit for our athletic program overall,” Kirkendall said. “The reasons we left (the BVC) before had a lot to do with football and the concerns with junior varsity games, junior high games and know with some of the schools no longer playing football or in the BVC those concerns have kind of went away and adding an Elmwood is a very solid program.
“You don’t have to worry about Ada having a junior high football team and they are working to get their numbers back to playing a JV schedule. Those changes were positive.”
Liberty-Benton Eagles will depart the BVC no later than the 2025-26 school year and In 2021, Cory-Rawson and North Baltimore both voted to leave the league and become members of the Northwest Central Conference.
“When we left in 2020 our problem was there was so many small schools and you are looking for JV games and you are looking for junior high games which are really tough to find and the NWC provided that and now that they (the BVC) have made some changes and you bring in an Elmwood and you bring in an Ada and some of the smaller football schools are a part of it. The bad part of things seemed to have improved and it kind of goes back to the fit.”
Another factor in the decision to return to the BVC is Leipsic’s history with the conference and Kirkendall said that helped the school “pull back in that direction.’”
Kirkendall added that the experience with the NWC was everything they expected.
“It was competitive, night in and night out and we were able to fill our schedules at the junior high and JV levels and that was a benefit to us and one of the reasons we went there. I think it benefited our football program in the years we were there. A lot of it goes back to the lower levels. We met some really good people.”
With the exodus of Leipsic, the NWC finds itself in search of schools to join.
Jon Derryberry, NWC commissioner, said the conference had a special meeting, actually prior to the Leipsic exit, but knowing that it might occur, to discuss the future.
Derryberry added that with the potential of Leipsic and Ada leaving the NWC, the NWC began compiling a list of possible schools to invite and then paired it down.
”We’ve got a couple of schools that have shown interest and people have called to join are ready and I can make recommendations,” Derryberry said. “I have a voice but not a vote.”
Derryberry pointed out that Fort Loramie has expressed interest in joining as a football only member, which remains a possibility but Derryberry said schools with multiple sports across the board are preferred.
“We are interested in a full-fledged member and Fort Loramie knows that,” Derryberry said. “We would prefer to have an even amount of schools in football and eight would be ideal.”
Another obstacle that Derryberry continues to encounter is the constant rumors of other schools jumping ship.
Derryberry said he has heard rumors of possible moves by Columbus Grove, Allen East and Crestview but reiterated that those schools seem intent on staying with the NWC.
Derryberry added a meeting will be held Wednesday to discuss the next course of action.
Traditionally the protocol for schools leaving a conference is two years but Ada and Leipsic have requested their NWC affiliation after the 2023-24 season.
“We have to do something sooner than later,” Derryberry said. “Again, I have a voice but don’t have a vote.”