The SportsTalk Shop: LVC Expansion Proposal

 

LVC EXPANSION PROPOSAL

Last Wednesday, the presidents of the Lehigh Valley Conference  and Mountain Valley Conference  officially announced a merger of the two leagues for the 2014-2015 school year. We first mentioned the possibility of this event in January on our RCN Sports Talk show. We’ve also had different representatives from various parts of our viewing area discuss the “rumors” on our program over the last several months. I think the league presidents and school principals should be commended for coordinating a brief conference call to inform the local media and local sports fans of this major decision for the high school sports program in the District XI region.

Once the news of the merger became official, there was very little additional information presented. New league alignments, scheduling and other relevant issues were not discussed during the teleconference. The league officials instead stated that meetings will soon ensue to hash out all of the details. Without any indication of which direction this new league is headed, I would like to share my proposal on how the new conference could shake out.

THE ALIGNMENT
I can see three divisions based on geography, which would help in the area of travel expenses — an area in which some school districts have expressed concern. The divisions would be:
• Lehigh – Allen, Central Catholic, Dieruff, Emmaus, Parkland, and Whitehall
• Northampton – Easton, Freedom, Liberty, Bethlehem Catholic, Nazareth, and Northampton
• Monroe – Pocono Mountain East, Pocono Mountain West, East Stroudsburg North, East Stroudsburg South, Pleasant Valley, and Stroudsburg

THE SCHEDULES
For the sports that feature schedules with maximums of 20 or 22 games (e.g., basketball, baseball, softball), I would offer the following scheduling points:
• Teams will play the other teams in their division twice (home/home series)
• Teams will play three teams from the other two divisions once a year for a two-year cycle (home/home)
• Teams will play the “other” three teams in the following two-year cycle
• Teams will have four to six non-league games to play in tournaments and/or face teams from outside the area

For example, Allen Basketball would play Central Catholic, Dieruff, Emmaus, Parkland and Whitehall twice a year, and could play Pleasant Valley, Pocono Mountain East, Pocono Mountain West, Easton, Freedom and Nazareth once a season for two years (alternating home court during those two seasons). After the first two years, the Canaries could play the other six teams during the second two-year cycle. For football, you could do the following:

• Teams will play the other teams in their division once (alternating home field advantage each year)
• Teams will play two teams from the other two divisions once a year for a two-year cycle (home-and-home series)
• Teams will play four other teams (two from each division) in the following two-year cycle and the remaining four teams in the “fifth” and “sixth” year
• Teams would still have the benefit of one ‘non-conference’ game, in which they could schedule a team that don’t play that year, or can play a team outside the region (something I know head coaches like to have available)

For example, Pocono Mountain East could play their division rivals each season, and Liberty, Freedom, Allen and Dieruff for the first two seasons. For years three and four, they could play Central Catholic, Emmaus, Easton and Nazareth. For the next two years, they could play Parkland, Whitehall, Bethlehem Catholic and Northampton.

I think for some of the other sports, like wrestling, they could employ an idea of some of the other “super-conferences” and also incorporate the complex, but extremely effective, system used for districts. The “top-tier” wrestling programs compete against each other in one division, the “mid-level” wrestling programs compete in the second division, and the “rebuilding” programs compete in the third division. There are a number of wrestling tournaments that teams could incorporate into the “non-conference” portion of the schedule. I think the current committee has done an excellent job restructuring the District XI tournament in recent years. They could put a balanced alignment together that could be re-examined every two years, if necessary.

Please note: I am not a school administrator, and I’m sure each district would have individual issues that no doubt could arise and cause conflicts. I think our local athletic directors do an amazing and, most often underrated, job. This process will not be a simple endeavor. Nevertheless, I could see this as a starting point from which to work through other issues.

What are your thoughts on my proposal for the new league? What do you think the new conference should be named? Send your opinions and suggestions to RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com. Tune in to this Thursday’s RCN Sports Talk at 6:00 PM as we discuss this issue and take a look at all of the fall high school sports news this season.

 

The SportsTalk Shop: The Latest on the “Super Conference”

The Latest on the “Super Conference”

First of all, thanks to all for the comments about our “Former Athletic Directors/Lehigh Valley Super Conference” edition of “SportsTalk” on May 2nd. We certainly had a ton of responses about the program. I’m glad to see the feedback highlights that we tried to balance the conversation and look at opposing points of view, addressing different sides of the issues, and also the potential impact for many of the schools in our coverage area. Clearly, the credit lies with our great panelists on the program.

Here’s a video clip with just a few opinions from our show—the entire program is available on RCN’s Video on Demand. I also have a few observations and comments that were made off-air that might be of interest to you.

Watch Sports Talk on YouTube

Watch Sports Talk on YouTube

Watch on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEn_GV2249k

 Here are a few items addressed during our commercial breaks and some “general consensus” points that were achieved by our panel.

Sports Talk panelists debate.

I was glad the panelists universally agreed that no team should be left out of whatever the new league may or may not be. There are clearly differing opinions on how the private schools should be grouped with the public schools. They range from having schools like Becahi and Central Catholic move to 4A classification to having a separate division of private schools—naming a private-school division winner and then having them play the public school division winner(s) for an overall league champion.

The topic of “super conference” is discussed.

An idea raised about a “super conference” involving “weighting teams” into separate divisions according to their abilities seems utopian, yet very problematic. The suggestion is that every two years, schools are basically placed into three categories based on past success: the best teams in one division, the “middle-of-the-road” teams in a second, and the struggling teams in a third. While that would be great for schools like Allen, Dieruff and Pocono Mountain-West for many of their sports, I see nothing but arguing over “which teams belong where,” and complaints about the success of teams in the “weaker division” while schools who play tougher competition suffer more losses. In addition, when you factor in the stipulation that teams must have a .500-or-better record to make the playoffs, the possibilities of griping and protesting of final outcomes could be endless.

The pros and cons of the“weighted points system”.

I do, however, personally like the “weighted points system” that District XI has come up with for its playoffs. If something like that could be tailored to a new league (maybe including ALL teams from the MVC, LVC, Colonial League and Pius X?), I think that has a better chance of success. Do we really need a league champion and/or would “division titles” be sufficient? In some cases (usually for bigger schools), a loss early in the district playoffs obliterates the success of winning a league championship. I’ve gotten the sense from some people in recent years that winning a league honor is not nearly as important in the Valley as it once was. The area has been so competitive recently that it almost seems that winning a league championship is the kiss-of-death for that team having long-term post-season success. For some sports, like basketball, the league champ almost never seems to win the district title—which also means a primo spot entering the all important state playoffs.

A wide range of topics are discussed by the panelists.

I thought it was interesting to hear the wide ranging opinions among just the people on our show, and can only imagine how tough it will be to try to make “everyone” happy in the region. Our panelists’ thoughts on the latest league news ranged from “it’s nothing new” and “nothing will come of this” to truly strong regret that this idea has been raised and heartfelt sadness that some schools might very possibly be forced to look outside the Valley to find teams to play for next year’s school calendar.

Don’t forget … the MVC asked for a decision by the LVC teams by the end of May. At the very least, there will be heated discussions around the Valley for the next several weeks. I do have confidence, however, that things will be resolved with the student-athletes’ best interests in mind.

One other note NOT related to the super-conference. My thanks to Northampton softball head coach Sally Whittaker-Kahan and her Konkrete Kids for being so gracious and classy when we stopped by with our “SportsTalk” camera to do a feature on the team for this week’s show.

After winning its first 17-straight games, the K-Kids lost its first ever game right before we stopped by to interview the squad about their great success this year. As is often the case and is the nature of “our world,” we had tried on several occasions to either stop by their practice or take in one of their games earlier this year to do a feature on their success, and had to reschedule our interviews multiple times because of scheduling conflicts, weather postponements and the like. When we finally stopped by to talk with them, they were coming off a tough loss to a really good Whitehall squad; yet the K-Kids paid the Zephyrs their proper respect and still answered our questions very eagerly and intelligently, not sulking or hanging their heads about the defeat.

I know coaches hate when I say this, but a loss this time of year is not necessarily the worst thing to happen this time of a sports-year. Sometimes, it can re-focus a team and make them remember how unpleasant it is to lose a game. Northampton certainly had nothing to be down about in its effort against Whitehall. A sloppy and/or one-sided loss this time of year is a different story, but a hard fought 1-0 defeat might only be a bump in the road. I won’t be surprised if it’s a few more weeks before we see another “L.” FYI: I’ll be out with our “SportsTalk” camera quite a bit in the next week, taking in tennis, volleyball and baseball games for features on our upcoming programs.

Your comments on the league realignment possibilities are most welcome, and any schools who have made notable achievements this year, like both the Northampton and Whitehall softball teams, would be appreciated posts to make her on our site. Be sure to check out our May 9th “SportsTalk” program (live at 6pm) featuring great sports radio voices from the area: Alan Rabler, Dick Hammer & Tim Cain, who all have promised some great local sports stories to reveal. (A shout-out to Glen Remaly for the use of his digital camera work for this post.)

The SportsTalk Shop: League Expansions & Super Conference

There’s been quite a bit of talk over the last few months regarding changes and speculations to our local Lehigh Valley Conference and Colonial League. We greatly appreciated local athletic directors coming on our recent “RCN SportsTalk” show (which you can watch for yourself for free on RCN Video-On-Demand). I have posted a short clip of our recent show below. I try to limit my own opinions on the program as much as I can as I try to focus and devote our time for our guests to give their views; however, there were several points I wanted to address on the show and did not have the opportunity to do so on that particular program.

First, I think the schools are absolutely justified in trying to look at options that would result in the best opportunities for their student athletes. I think the current alignment of teams in both the Lehigh Valley Conference and the Colonial League are overall very fair and make for genuinely good competition in most teams and sports. There are some “size discrepancies” (e.g., Bangor vs. Catasauqua) that sometimes directly affect their team’s abilities to succeed. However, if you look across the board at the different athletic events, a team like the Rough Riders not only defends their honor quite nicely, but in some sports, has held a strong advantage over bigger schools (among them football and softball). Is it perfect system? No . . . nor will it ever be. I think the school administrators must provide due diligence in looking to see if it can better the current alignments.

Secondly, there are some schools that have significant challenges in traveling to away games—especially during the winter sports season. The most obvious examples are Bangor and Northwestern going to Palisades and vice versa, which results in what amounts to a huge expense in travel costs and commuting time for not just the school districts, but also for the parents and family members, who already make sacrifices for their sons and daughters to participate in athletics. Does one trip from one end of the District XI map to the other sabotage one’s budget? Not really…but why make several trips from, say Bangor to Hellertown, Kintersville and Center Valley each season, when you have teams from up north at much closer distances.

Thirdly, I’d like to discuss the “super-conference” that we have discussed on our show and the suggestions proposed by Keith Groller of the Morning Call in a recent column. There are benefits to grouping teams together according to classifications, distances, and program strengths that could involve all the teams currently in the LVC, MVC and Colonial League in one way or another. Several weeks ago on “SportsTalk”, the Express-Times’ Bruce Buratti thought it was possible that a couple schools from the Poconos might want to “go north” and get more involved in teams from District 2, which, of course, would be right to do so if they feel that would be in the best interest of their schools. However, if any more teams leave the MVC— to the Anthracite League, Schuylkill League or wherever—I think you will have to look at assimilating teams from the Poconos into any rebranding of the LVC, even if they themselves have their own section which would limit their long-distance travel to the District’s southern region (most of those schools already schedule Lehigh Valley teams as part of their non-conference schedule).

There are other super-conference rumors that have not been spoken about publicly in recent weeks. As you might imagine, the current athletic directors cannot comment directly on any speculation that a plan could be in the works. That net will not apply for our May 2nd “SportsTalk” show, in which will be talking with former athletic directors from the region that have no obligations (nor a propensity) to limit what they can address.

Here’s some of the recent news and comments about the local leagues’ changes from last week’s show:

What are your thoughts on the changes that have already taken place, and in what direction do you think local administrators should move towards? Feel free to post comments below and email your comments and questions to RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com and we’ll read and respond to you emails on our live May 2nd show at 6pm on RCN-TV.