October 12, 2011
By Bill Mullaly
The future of the Lenawee County Athletic Association (LCAA) became much clearer last Thursday when the current member schools voted to add two new members, Hillsdale and Brooklyn Columbia Central, for the 2012-13 school year. Exactly one year ago, the talk of the LCAA possibly folding was very real but all that ended up being was talk.
Onsted never left the LCAA for the Southern Michigan Activities Association (SMAA) as they were considering. In fact, it was a member of the SMAA, Jackson Western, that decided to leave that conference in May of 2011.
That decision by Western to leave the SMAA after the 2011-12 academic year set in motion a scenario that became reality last week. Present SMAA members Hillsdale and Columbia Central petitioned to enter the LCAA over the summer and the petition to enter was voted on and approved last Thursday.
Stockbridge was a third SMAA school that wanted to enter the LCAA but they were denied entrance in the vote that took place seven days ago. “Stockbridge just didn’t fit well geographically with the current schools of the LCAA,” said Hudson athletic director Jeremy Beal. “We felt the travel distance was too great for our schools and Stockbridge itself knew travel distances were quite long but they wanted to be in some conference.”
The executive committee that voted last week voted first to expand by two members from the present six to the newly formed eight-team conference. The second vote was to allow both Hillsdale and Columbia Central to enter the LCAA for next school year. Stockbridge’s request was denied.
“This is a win-win for both the LCAA and the two new schools entering our league,” said Tiger head wrestling coach Scott “Scooter” Marry. “I think it will be good for our league in adding these two schools. They are both short drives for us here at Hudson and we already have good relationships with the two schools. I am very excited about them joining. It should help with scheduling, especially at the middle school level.”
With the expansion taking place for next school year Marry knows who should get a lot of the credit for this two-school addition taking place. “I know our athletic director had a lot to do with this being worked out,” said Marry about A.D. Beal. “He was a driving force behind making this a real possibility and he deserves a lot of the credit for the LCAA expanding and staying secure in the future.”
The first scheduling question is that of football. For next year, Hudson will now open with Addison and then will play long-time rival Morenci in week two. The seven-game LCAA schedule will be played out in weeks three through nine.
“We are very lucky that things worked out the way they did and it is a blessing for the LCAA,” said head football coach Chris Luma. “A year ago we weren’t sure what was going to happen to the LCAA and now we have a more stable league. The two new schools are teams that we are familiar with and they will make our league stronger in football. Winning the LCAA title in football will be a tougher challenge in the years ahead. Overall, the two new schools are close by and Stockbridge really would have added a lot of extra travel for all sports. When I first heard a couple of schools might be added I was skeptical but then I soon realized it was best for the LCAA and for Hudson.”
The new eight-member LCAA that begins in 2012-13 will feature schools with the following enrollment figures: Onsted 566, Ida 525, Columbia Central 497, Dundee 493, Hillsdale 417, Erie Mason 389, Blissfield 366 and Hudson 279. The numbers are based on enrollments taken in February of 2011.
“We will not use the excuse that because we are smallest in enrollment that we can’t compete in our own league,” said Beal, who doubles as the head baseball coach. “I know I personally will never use that as an excuse in baseball nor do I feel any other coaches will. We have had a lot of success in the post-season in several sports and that comes from strong competition within our own league. We have to play up in our league so that prepares us to play schools that are our size in the post-season.”
The addition of the two schools will take place next fall and all of Hudson’s sports teams will have to be ready for two new member schools.
“I don’t see much difference in the LCAA with those two joining as far as basketball goes as we already play them non-league and we are familiar with them,” said head boy’s basketball coach Wayne Perry. “They are both good basketball schools and they make the LCAA stronger in all sports. I think they will be a good addition.” It should be noted that Columbia Central was already a member of the LCAA for three years from 1998-2000 before they jettisoned to the newly formed Tri-River Conference. The Tri-River started in 2001 and then later spread into the newly created SMAA in 2005.
The losers in the two-team LCAA expansion is the SMAA. Stockbridge, Leslie, Albion and Lansing Christian are all SMAA members heading into next year without a league affiliation. Of course, that could change as those four schools seek greener pastures. For now and for many years in the future the LCAA appears to be strong and stable league. In fact, it is a league that has been going now since the 1920s and it is a sure bet that the 100th anniversary of the LCAA will take place. And that is a victory for all past, present and future LCAA schools.