Citing many of the same reasons as their Madison County neighbors who proceeded them in doing so, the London School Board approved Tuesday the district’s move from the Mid-State League to the Central Buckeye Conference (CBC), effective no later than the 2019-20 school year.
The move will mean the Red Raiders will leave the league in which they’ve played the last four years for a conference that is steadily expanding. The league jump comes a year and a half after West Jefferson left the Mid-State League for the Ohio Heritage Conference and two-plus years since Madison-Plains did the same. Jonathan Alder which has played the last handful of years in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference Red Division will be playing its first season in the CBC this fall.
The idea of jumping leagues was spurred by the changes that have occurred in the last couple years with conferences realigning and expanding. London High School director of athletics Jim Wolverton who said a year ago his school was happy with where it was, but started to explore other options last winter.
“We sent out a survey to our coaches to get feedback back in late-January to early-February,” Wolverton said. “We wanted to start a discussion of what was the best fit for our school and our community.
“I informed our league commissioner that we would be looking around and trying to find what was the best place for our student-athletes. We liked what we saw in the CBC but we couldn’t make the move without a second school joining us.”
A dance partner
After meeting with the CBC in April, a partner school emerged.
That second school became North Union. North Union had been a member of the MOAC Red Division with Alder but with that conference dissolving the Wildcats needed a new home. Several meetings with the CBC, London and North Union, led to both schools joining what will become a 12-team league.
The new CBC will be divided into two divisions, the Kenton Trail Division which will include London, Jonathan Alder, Bellefontaine, Springfield Shawnee, Kenton Ridge and Tecumseh. The Mad River Division will be made up of North Union, Benjamin Logan, Indian Lake, Urbana, St. Paris Graham and Springfield Northwestern.
The Red Raiders new home will likely be one where they can be more competitive in more sports across the board. Playing in the MSL Ohio, London was routinely going up against powerhouse athletic programs in Bexley, Columbus Academy, Whitehall, Grandview and Worthington Christian. Those teams are among the top schools in the area in their respective divisions in a lot of different sports.
Wolverton sees an opportunity in the new home for all of his teams to be competitive.
“The CBC is a great conference, it gives us a chance to compete against schools like us,” he said. “It also gives us a chance to build new rivalries. It’s kind of hard to do that with some of the MSL teams. Those schools for some reason or another don’t travel well to our place.
“The CBC is a quality league, we won’t be going there to dominate. But in our current league it’s really hard for us to be competitive in some of the more affluent sports.”
Renewing a rivalry
London will be placed in the same division as Jonathan Alder, rekindling a county rivalry. The two schools are as similar in size and have had contests against each other in some sports, the rivalry will likely heat up.
“In quite a few sports we compete anyway, it’s a way to have a county school in our division, a similar size school and the proximity of the two schools will make for good gates when we play,” Wolverton said.
London didn’t join the CBC because Alder did, but having someone to talk to and who had just gone through the process recently was helpful.
“I had talked to them about the league and (Alder athletic director) Tom (Vargo) was helpful, the hard part was they haven’t played a game in the league yet,” he said.
If there was anyone more excited than the London faithful about the move its Vargo, who had been hoping for a London move to the CBC since Alder committed to going that route.
“London was always No. 1 on my list of schools that should be in the CBC with us,” Vargo said. “It’s just a natural fit. The CBC had to go East and London was a perfect spot. I know they were happy with the MSL but it was like things started to fall apart when Madison-Plains and West Jeff decided to go to the (OHC).
“We’re really looking forward to being in the same league with them.”
Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.