JACKSON, Ohio — Barring an unlikely 11th-hour influx of members, the Southeastern Ohio Athletic League now has an end date that can be etched onto its tombstone.
To no one’s surprise, Jackson High School officially submitted a letter stating its intentions to depart the SEOAL at Wednesday’s meeting of league athletic directors in Jackson.
Jackson will officially leave the league June 1, 2017… meaning the May 13, 2017 league track meet at Warren High School will be the SEOAL’s last hurrah, ending 92 years of continuous operation.
The state’s longest-running, non-city athletic conference concludes its 91st season Saturday with the league track meet in Logan Chieftain Stadium.
As many as 10 schools were in the conference less than a decade ago, but began leaving one-by-one in 2008.
Gallia Academy High School — like Logan and Jackson, a charter member of the league in 1925 — leaves the league for full-time membership in the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) upon the completion of Saturday’s track meet.
The only schools remaining for the 2016-17 school year will be Logan, Jackson and Warren, and they will play a league schedule — along with associate members Athens (in boys and girls soccer and boys and girls tennis), Alexander (boys and girls soccer) and Gallipolis (boys tennis) — and crown conference champions next year.
League officials decided last summer the three remaining schools would remain intact and operate as SEOAL members until one of them gained full-time membership in another conference or officially left the league.
In addition, league officials had also already decided to retire the rotating William E. (Bill) Thomas All-Sports Trophy after this school year, and the winner — which will likely be Logan — gets to keep it.
Should Logan win it — and the Chiefs and Lady Chiefs would both have to finish dead-last on Saturday just for it to be a possibility — it would be a fitting souvenir for being the final original SEOAL school left standing.
Warren didn’t join the league until 1986.
Jackson will likely join Chillicothe, Greenfield McClain, Hillsboro, Miami Trace and Washington Court House to form a new, yet-to-be named athletic conference.
Those five schools announced a few months ago they were leaving the South Central Ohio League, which will also fold at roughly the same time as the SEOAL.
That league’s other three members — Clinton County schools Clinton-Massie, East Clinton and Wilmington — have already been accepted into another league beginning in the fall of 2017.
Logan and Warren will officially become independent athletic programs upon Jackson’s departure from the SEOAL.
Both schools have been seeking full-time membership in other conferences for as many as four years now.
Warren is a member of the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference (not to be confused with the OVC) which numbers more than 50 schools of various sizes in eastern Ohio and West Virginia, but does not play a full conference schedule in any sport.
Last year, WHS was offered a spot in the East Central Ohio League — where the school would have joined Marietta, Zanesville, New Philadelphia, Dover and possibly Cambridge in the big-school division — but the Warren school board turned down the offer.
Logan, meanwhile, has sought — and continues to seek — membership in as many as a half-dozen conferences and was tantalizingly close to getting into the Licking County League a few months ago before that league decided not to expand at the last minute.
Craig Dunn is the sports editor of the Logan Daily News and also serves as the SEOAL media representative.