PORTSMOUTH — The Southern Ohio Conference has a new member — which used to be an old member.
That’s because, on Tuesday, the SOC Board of Control officially voted to admit Ironton St. Joseph into the conference — beginning with the 2019-20 academic year.
Citing a report in The Ironton Tribune, the re-admission of St. Joseph — which was a member of the SOC from 1982 thru 1989— will give the league 17 schools.
The move marks the latest conference re-alignment in Southeastern Ohio — and the first since Jackson joined five other schools to form the Frontier Athletic Conference.
It has also been announced that Oak Hill, also beginning in 2019-20, will move back up to the SOC II in football.
The Oaks are an SOC I program in that sport, and have been since 2006, while competing in the larger-sized SOC II in all others.
Since joining the SOC I in football, Oak Hill has won at least a share of every league championship from 2009 thru 2017 — except in 2011 and 2016.
The Oaks initially joined the SOC in the 1992-93 academic year.
The Flyers withdrew from the SOC as a result of declining enrollment — and have been forced to play an independent schedule for the past three decades.
However, they have scheduled several SOC I schools to fill their slates — as the SOC I consists of the smallest-sized schools in the conference.
The school’s athletic facilities are also getting an upgrade, which further prompted St. Joseph’s interest in re-joining the SOC.
It was voted down for admission two-and-a-half years ago — along with Jackson.
But this time — with improved facilities and timing on its side — St. Joseph was approved, said Northwest Athletic Director and SOC secretary Dave Frantz.
The Flyers currently compete in both boys and girls basketball, baseball, softball and soccer.
With the new enrollment numbers, Pike Eastern is moving up to Division II in all sports with the exception of football.
The Ironton Tribune report said South Webster, the smallest of the SOC II schools, wanted to remain in the division.
Thus, the SOC II shall consist of Oak Hill, Minford, Northwest, Portsmouth West, South Webster, Valley, Waverly, Wheelersburg and Pike Eastern. Although, with Waverly, the largest SOC school, there have long been rumors that the Tigers are looking to leave the league — perhaps interested in the Scioto Valley Conference.
The SOC I will include St. Joseph, Symmes Valley, Green, Portsmouth Notre Dame, Portsmouth Clay, New Boston, Sciotoville East and Western.
Speaking of Western, the Indians are adding football and will play in the SOC I.