By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
Southeast High School and the Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference formally announced on Friday an agreement for the Pirates to join the league at the start of the 2024-25 school year.
The new partnership was announced by a press release by MVAC commissioner John Mang on Friday afternoon.
It will mark the first time that the Pirates play outside of a Portage County-based league in the school’s history.
Southeast, which was formed in 1950 with consolidation of five township schools, previously played in the Portage County League before joining the Portage Trail Conference.
“It was a decision that was made with great difficulty, especially considering our partnership with Rootstown and Mogadore for as long as I can remember,” Southeast Superintendent Bob Dunn said. “Breaking away from that longstanding relationship is probably the hardest part, to be honest.”
Dunn said the opportunity to join the MVAC was presented over the last couple of weeks and it was considered the “best decision for the district.”
Southeast athletic director Patrick Youel said that once it was announced that Sebring McKinley was leaving the MVAC, Southeast sent an email in the late fall to the league to express interest in joining. Youel said that the district did not hear anything until January, then things progressed quickly.
Mang asked Southeast if it would want to apply, which Southeast did in mid-January. The MVAC then eventually voted on the addition of Southeast at a meeting last Thursday and Southeast received a formal invitation to join the MVAC last Friday (Feb. 27).
Youel and Dunn presented the invitation at a school-board meeting this week, it was voted on unanimously to accept and Southeast sent a formal acceptance letter on Thursday.
“Our relationships have remained strong with the PTC schools, but we knew that the current formation of the league was simply not sustainable.”
Southeast, Rootstown and Mogadore remain the only three members of the PCL that are currently part of the PTC and had long communicated that they respected the relationship enough that future decisions would weigh heavy if all three were not included together.
That stance changed for Southeast as it attempted to work through schedule complications, cancelled games and driving distances.
“We felt like we were creating enough opportunities for our kids to compete and it was becoming increasingly difficult to continue down this path,” Dunn said, referencing the lack of member schools in the PTC. “We had hoped that there would be some kind of reformation of what the old PCL was, and we attended every single one of those meetings to try to advocate fort. We were involved, we helped lead it, we had the right people working toward it, but it just never materialized. Ultimately, we had to do what was best for our student-athletes.”
In recent years, the PTC, which at one point boasted 16 schools, had shrunk to a shell of itself.
Initially, Waterloo and Windham left to find leagues that better fit their enrollment size and competitive balance, but a larger hit to the league came in 2018 when the PTC Metro Division Superintendents announced all eight schools would be leaving to form its own league called the Metro Athletic Conference.
That decision made the PTC vulnerable and the perceived uncertainty led the Crestwood leaving for the Chagrin Valley Conference and Garfield leaving for the MVAC.
The move to the MVAC reunites Southeast with former PCL and PTC league members Garfield and Waterloo.
Garfield, Mogadore, Rootstown and Southeast all applied to the MVAC back in 2018, but only Garfield was accepted. At that time, the MVAC needed either one team to fulfill its current max level of member schools, which became Garfield, or nine to justify an expansion at that time.
“We are excited about what is ahead for us,” Youel said. “We put a lot of thought and energy into this decision and while it is a hard one because of the relationships we have with schools like Rootstown and Mogadore, it is a decision that is best for our kids and community.”
Southeast join the MVAC’s Grey Division, which includes Brookfield, Champion, Crestview, Garfield, LaBrae, Liberty and Newton Falls.
In girls athletics, Southeast will rank first in enrollment within the Grey Tier, while its boys athletics will rank sixth.
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