The Vermilion Board of Education unanimously authorized Superintendent Phil Pempin to pursue reinstatement into the West Shore Conference at Monday night's meeting.
That process started at Tuesday's WSC meeting, where Avon officially notified the conference of its withdrawal pending acceptance into the Southwestern Conference. The pending Avon withdrawal and the list of potential suitors to fill that spot were the deciding factors for Vermilion.
“After we spent a considerable amount of time looking at our options, we feel right now the best thing to do for our community is to go back to the West Shore Conference,” Vermilion school board member Dale Dawson said. “We never left the first time because we weren't happy there. It was because the demographics with not only us, but other communities in the WSC had changed.
“If you look at our area in general, you see a lot of instability with conferences in general. It's not a coincidence that we've had a dramatic population shift in our area too. All of it plays into conference realignment.”
Vermilion is hoping a return to the West Shore will end a chaotic few years of league shuffling and realignment. The Sailor athletic teams currently have no league affiliation, and have already filled the football schedule as an independent for the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
The WSC formed seven years ago, dominated by Lorain and Cuyahoga County schools similar in size. The conference debuted with members that included Avon, Bay, Fairview, Firelands, Midview, North Ridgeville, Rocky River and Vermilion.
But Fairview and Firelands left after the 2010-11 school year for the Patriot Athletic Conference and were replaced by Elyria Catholic and Lakewood, the latter which has more than 700 boys to choose from for athletic teams.
That domino led to Vermilion seeking better options, which it decided in October of 2011 was the Northern Ohio League, where it would join area teams Bellevue, Norwalk, Sandusky and Willard along with Tiffin Columbian and Shelby.
However, shortly after it agreed to the NOL, the PAC came calling and mentioned to Vermilion the possibility of expanding and taking in the Sailors, which would have been a much better geographical fit, and probably a better fit competitively.
Shortly after the school year ended last year, the PAC athletic directors voted to expand, approving and bringing in Vermilion, Cloverleaf, Cuyahoga Heights and Independence. That would have allowed East and West divisions, putting Vermilion in with nearby schools such as Keystone, Clearview, Brookside, Firelands and Wellington.
Believing it was going to be accepted by the PAC, Vermilion proceeded to withdraw from the NOL before ever playing any games there. The move came just after Ontario agreed to join the NOL, which was also a travel setback for Vermilion.
However, PAC superintendents and principals opted to overrule the expansion idea, postponing the move and again leaving Vermilion without a home entering the current school year.
When reapplying to the WSC, the conference told Vermilion it would need a seven-year commitment. Vermilion countered with a two or three-year commitment, but the WSC has stood firm at seven years.
Dawson said at Tuesday's meeting, the WSC did not indicate one way or another on the length of years for a commitment.
“We officially applied, and it has to go through the formalities,” Dawson said. “We're hoping to know something by mid-December.”
As an independent in football, Vermilion will play Fairview, Clearview, Firelands, Cleveland Central Catholic, Toledo Start, Youngstown Christian, Norwalk, Spencerville and Lucas. Needing to fill one more game, the school is in talks with Ontario.
On top of no all-league honors for athletes and difficulty scheduling games, a downside to independent play is travel. The average round trip will be 127 miles next year, and 93 miles in 2014.
Meanwhile, the city of Avon continues to grow, and athletic success, mainly football, was one of the contributing factors to the school's decision to leave the WSC.
At one time, the Eagles were a Div. IV school in football, but currently are a high-end Div. II school with 407 boys, just 30 boys away from Division I status under the current format.
The SWC was an eight-team conference, but two of its members, Midpark and Berea, will consolidate to form the Berea-Midpark Titans beginning in the 2013-14 school year. That opened the door for Avon to join rival Avon Lake, Amherst, Berea-Midpark, Brecksville-Broadview Heights, North Olmsted, Olmsted Falls and Westlake.
If Vermilion is accepted back, the WSC would consist of seven teams: Bay, Midview, North Ridgeville, Elyria Catholic, Rocky River, Lakewood and Vermilion.
“Seeing a much bigger school like Avon potentially leave played into our decision to apply to get back in,” Dawson said. “You have a couple big schools, but one of the attractions was, who the possibilities may be with regards to an eighth team coming in there. There are teams that may come in there who excite us about re-establishing rivalries in the WSC.”