SPARTA — After three years in the KMAC, Highland will be moving back into the MOAC for its athletics.
Highland announced the move on Thursday following a resolution being approved by the school system’s Board of Education Wednesday night.
According to athletic director Mike Delaney, the MOAC expressed interest in Highland returning to that conference in January and, after meeting with league commissioner Bill Clauss, as well as the principal and athletic director of Ontario High School, the school decided to vote on making the move, which was followed by the MOAC voting to accept them into the conference.
“Ultimately, all decisions are based on what is best for the kids,” said Delaney. “We thought moving forward, the MOAC would offer more opportunities.”
Enrollment numbers played a big role in the decision. With an enrollment of 435 in grades 9-11, Highland was by far the largest KMAC school, with no other schools reaching the 300-student mark. Their enrollment is more in line with the MOAC schools, as with the exception of Harding (854) and Pleasant (304), that league’s schools all are between 400 and 500. And with Highland being in an area seeing economic growth, it could easily be assumed that the district will only continue to grow, potentially widening the enrollment gap between them and other KMAC programs.
“That whole sub-varsity thing was a big driver,” said Delaney. “For our programs to grow, we have to have games at the JV level, freshman level, middle school level, etc.”
Delaney mentioned other positives of the move, as well. After being the only KMAC school with soccer programs, Highland will now be in a league where most of the other schools offer that sport. The MOAC also has more schools with girls’ golf teams. The move won’t happen immediately. Highland will be in the KMAC for all sports during the 2020-21 school year and then move to the MOAC in all sports but football for the 2021-22 year. In 2022-23, the school will complete the move by joining in football.
Delaney noted that due to factors such as scheduling, schools are supposed to give conferences two years notice before moving and that the KMAC agreed to release them a year early in all sports but football.
Highland had been a member of the MOAC from when that league began in 1990 until the 2016-17 school year, at which point they, Mount Gilead, Cardington, Northmor, Fredericktown and Centerburg split off and formed the KMAC along with Danville and East Knox. Delaney emphasized that there were no hard feelings from his school’s decision to return to the MOAC and that he’ll be looking to maintain those local rivalries in non-league contests.
“That’s an expectation of the board that we continue to play non-conference games with KMAC schools,” he said. “And the KMAC schools indicated they wanted to continue.”
When the move is complete, Highland will be in a league currently hosting Harding, Pleasant, Ontario, River Valley, Shelby, Clear Fork and Galion. Highland’s inclusion will boost the league up to eight teams.
“The MOAC is extremely pleased to add Highland as an eighth member to the conference,” said Clauss in a press release. “We are looking forward to many years of outstanding competition and to the stability that Highland brings to the MOAC.”
In the end, Delaney said that the school’s decision-making was to do what was best for Highland’s athletes, while also maintaining good relations with the rest of the KMAC’s schools.
“Ultimately, it comes down to what is best for the kids and to maintain good relations,” he said.
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS