What does the future hold for Lima Senior’s athletic teams now that the Three Rivers Athletic Conference is officially breaking apart?
Findlay, Fremont Ross, Toledo Whitmer and Oregon Clay are accepting invitations to join the Northern Lakes League. The other TRAC members — Lima Senior, Toledo St. John, Toledo Central Catholic, Toledo St. Francis, Toledo Notre Dame and Toledo St. Ursula — were not invited.
According to the TRAC’s constitution and bylaws departing schools have to give two years notice. So, if those rules are followed, the 2022-23 school year would be the final season for the TRAC.
Beyond that, Lima Senior has three paths it could follow.
The first thing it can try is to join the five Toledo Catholic schools in trying to attract schools to replace the four who will be leaving.
The second option is for Lima Senior to go solo and try to find a new league. The third possibility is to become an independent.
“We have two years, based on our Three Rivers Athletic Conference constitution and bylaws. In those two years the remaining schools in the TRAC have to determine whether or not we can salvage the TRAC by inviting other schools to join or if we disband or dissolve the league and go our separate ways and we try to figure out what’s in the best interest for Lima Senior,” said Lima Senior athletic director John Zell earlier this week.
Zell said the Toledo Catholic schools have already contacted some schools to see if they have any interest in the TRAC.
“They (the five Catholic schools in the TRAC) have reached out to several schools and are waiting to hear back from their administrations,” he said.
The second option would be for Lima Senior to find a new league on its own, though the chances it has to discover such an opportunity nearby are small.
The Western Buckeye League is a 10-team league which is happy with things as they are. The same is true for the Miami Valley League, which includes teams along I-75 like Sidney, Piqua, Troy, Tipp City and Vandalia Butler.
The Miami Valley League was formed in 2018 by 10 teams who left the Greater Western Ohio Conference, which includes teams like Centerville, Huber Heights Wayne, Beavercreek and Springfield.
At the same time, Lebanon left the GWOC to join the Eastern Cincinnati Conference, which reduced the GWOC to nine teams. But instead of adding a team to get back to 10, the conference voted Trotwood-Madison out and went with eight teams.
The third option for Lima Senior is playing as an independent, something it has done for several seasons two other times since Lima Central and Lima South were merged to form Lima Senior in 1955.
“We have to take a look at what’s best for Lima Senior and if being independent for a few years is what is best for our athletic program and our student-athletes that’s something we will look into,” Zell said.
Lima Senior competed in the Greater Ohio League, which included teams like Middletown, Hamilton, Mansfield, Portsmouth and Springfield, from 1955 until becoming an independent in the 1974-75 school year.
It joined the Greater Miami Conference in 1980 and stayed there through the 1999-2000 school year.
The other schools in the GMC at the time — Middletown, Hamilton, Lakota, Princeton, Sycamore, Fairfield and Milford — all were southwest Ohio schools near Cincinnati.
In the spring of 1998, the other GMC schools gave Lima Senior an ultimatum, saying it could agree to leave the conference in two years or fight to stay and the rest of the schools would dissolve the GMC and form a new league in one year without Lima Senior.
Lima Senior chose the two-year option and then was an independent for three seasons before joining the Greater Buckeye Conference in 2003. It played in the GBC until that league broke up in 2011 and the TRAC was formed that same year.
The TRAC came into being when the five Catholic schools in Toledo, along with Whitmer and Oregon Clay, left the Toledo City League after that league eliminated several non-revenue sports and junior high school sports.
While no one factor caused the TRAC’s demise, how some schools treated a Lucas County Health Department ruling which said schools in that county shouldn’t play games or practice in school facilities in December and early January because of the COVID-19 pandemic might have played a role.
“I believe kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back were the issues that were raised through COVID by the Lucas County Health Department. Some schools followed the rulings. Other schools did not,” Zell said.
Findlay, Fremont Ross, Whitmer and Clay will join Anthony Wayne, Bowling Green, Napoleon, Perrysburg, Holland Springfield, Sylvania Southview and Sylvania Northview in the Northern Lakes League in 2023. The NLL plans to go to a two-division alignment based on enrollment numbers.