WHEELING - The winds of change continue to blow through the OVAC, with Executive Secretary Tom Rataiczak revealing this rather stunning statistic during his annual dinner with the media Wednesday night:
The league will have a higher student enrollment on the West Virginia side than the Ohio side for the first time in its history, this despite the Buckeye state having potentially 10 more schools in the league than West Virginia.
When Zanesville and Bishop Rosecrans departed the conference after last year, they took roughly1,200 students with them. The league has two potential replacements - we'll know if they're in as early as next week - in Clay-Battelle and East Richland Christian School, but the enrollment disparity is somewhat significant.
Clay-Battelle, located in Blacksville, W.Va., has 209 students, meaning it will become a Class 2A school in the OVAC. East Richland, located in St. Clairsville, would become the OVAC's smallest school with 27.
In the end, assuming those two schools do, indeed, come aboard, West Virginia would have 9,505 OVAC students and Ohio would have 9,273 - a difference of 232.
Who would have thought?
Assuming those schools are in, the OVAC would be back to 50 schools, though this year's balance will be off. There will be 10 schools in classes 1A, 3A, and 4A, 11 in 2A, and nine in 5A.
Rataiczak, as always, is a big-picture guy, and when he looks down the road, he sees what is nearly a crisis when it comes to officials. They're needed across the board, and the hope is some of the young adults in the valley become interested.
Though football remains popular and there's a rather deep pool of officials from which to choose, most of the rest of the sports are in danger, particularly soccer.
While it takes a few years of experience in the jayvee ranks in any sport to build up to the varsity level, from the sounds of things, anyone with knowledge of soccer, a red and yellow card, and a pulse could be put on the fast track.. As it stands, future games on the West Virginia side could be in jeopardy because the number of contests outnumbers the amount of officials.
In basketball, a lot of the OV's top officials are all nearing retirement age, Rataiczak says, and the fear is they could walk at any time.
New blood needs pumped into the games.
One for the thumb
With the move to the five-class system, widespread change will happen in the league's tournaments.
They will hand out trophies in each classification except for soccer, swimming, and track. Soccer and swimming's three divisions will be 1A-3A, 4A, and 5A; tennis will be 1A-4A, and 5A.
The basketball finals in both boys and girls will all be played in one day at OUE, as they've just juggled the start time of the first one and shortened the time between games to make that happen.
The baseball tournament will see two finals Friday night at Steubenville's Vaccaro Field, followed by the final three Saturday.
All five softball games will be played on Saturday at the I-470 Fields, split between Lisa's Field and what figures to be an equally impressive Ben's Field.
The girls' soccer tournament quarterfinals have been moved to St. Clairsville from Steubenville, just as the track tournament has moved from Meadowbrook to St. C.
Searching for more
The upgraded OVAC website has lists of as many All-OVAC teams as officials could get their hands on. They're asking for more. It's as simple as this. If you have a list of an All-OVAC team somewhere - something as simple as an old newspaper clipping in a scrapbook - jump on the OVAC site, and see if they already have it. If they don't, send a copy to the OVAC offices and they'll punch it in. The goal is to get as many as possible.
Another of Rataiczak's recent projects was to go back and make standings for all-time OVAC total championships. Wheeling Park leads the way with 169, followed by Linsly (165), St. Clairsville (96), Wheeling Central (95) and Bellaire (94).
The defunct school with the most titles is Cadiz with 47.
Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org