Toronto to leave EOAC

The Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference, which is in its inaugural year, is already looking for another member.

League officials have learned that Toronto’s Board of Education voted to leave the Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference following the 2018-2019 school year during a board meeting on Thursday.

“It’s a little bit of a surprise,” league commissioner Howard Friend said. “They had expressed some concerns in the fall, but we thought there would be a wait and see approach. We had hoped they saw value in being in a league because they were a good fit for us and got along with everyone.”

Following the collapse of the Inter-Tri County League, the Jefferson County school district was the only outsider school to make the jump into the new league also consisting of previous ITCL members Leetonia, Lisbon, Columbiana, East Palestine, United, Southern and Wellsville. That move was orchestrated under a previous superintendent according to a league official.

The league started play in fall of 2017.

Toronto athletic director Chelsey Fletcher said the reason for Toronto leaving was primarily financial.

“There were extraordinary league costs and increased officials rates,” Fletcher said. “Our gates took a massive hit this year. They limited what sports could charge. They had concerns about some of our parking fees.

“With higher costs and less ability to bring in money in other avenues it was just out of our financial league. Increased travel time was also a concern. It was largely prompted by financial reasons.”

Announcing it now is to give both Toronto and the EOAC time to adjust accordingly going forward.

“It was a two year minimum obligation which the superintendents agreed upon,” Fletcher said. “We had until May per the EOAC constitution and bylaws to notify them but we wanted to do the right thing and let them know as soon as possible, not only so we can fill schedules, but so that they can find a replacement school.”

Friend said it’s too early to speculate on a possible replacement, but he’s open to hearing from school districts who might think they would be a good fit.

“We’ll have a meeting with superintendents in the near future to discuss this more,” Friend said.

Toronto remains a member of the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference and Fletcher anticipates a schedule that will be OVAC driven in 2019-20 and beyond.

“We never left the OVAC so it will primarily be OVAC schools,” Fletcher said. “You’re taking seven schools out of the schedule so we have to replace seven schools. We have a lot of schools near us.”