JACKSON — The inaugural academic year for the Frontier Athletic Conference is only halfway through.
However, it appears that the fledgling FAC is full-throttle on finding two new schools in its initial expansion effort.
That’s because the FAC, currently a six-school conference in its infancy, has expressed interest in expanding to eight schools —per a conference release on the Ohio High School Athletic Association website.
In a release from FAC Commissioner Terri Tutt, on the conference openings section of the website and dated Jan. 11, “the Frontier Athletic Conference is seeking two schools for its league. We primarily are a Division II conference located in the Southeast District of the OHSAA.”
Interested schools can contact Tutt with questions or additional information at FACterritutt@gmail.com.
Citing a published report by The Highland County Press, Tutt said the conference’s goal is to consist of eight teams, stating she has “sent invitations to several schools that are in close proximity and similar in student population size.”
She added that the conference prefers to have its expansion completed by the 2019-20 academic year.
All six schools currently in the conference agreed to a four-year contract — with a financial penalty in place should they opt to exit early.
Tutt also spoke about the primary reason for expansion — scheduling.
For football, the FAC currently competes in the final five weeks of the season — thus meaning the opening five weeks consist of non-league contests for each club.
Jackson, a charter member of the now defunct Southeastern Ohio Athletic League, joined the other five FAC members — Chillicothe, Hillsboro, McClain, Miami Trace and Washington Court House — in October 2016 in officially forming the new conference.
The SEOAL and South Central Ohio League, which the other five aforementioned schools belonged to, both ceased operations following the 2016-17 academic year.
With the exception of football, all six schools compete in primarily Division II — although Chillicothe, Hillsboro, Jackson, Miami Trace and Washington Court House do compete in some tournaments as Division I.
Only McClain does not, as it and Washington Court House are football Division IV —with Chillicothe in Division II and Hillsboro, Jackson and Miami Trace all in Division III.
Jackson joined forces for the FAC after spending two years applying for — and in each instance being rejected by — other conferences in the Southeast District.
From 2013 until late in 2015, JHS unsuccessfully applied for membership in the SCOL, Tri-Valley Conference, Ohio Valley Conference and Southern Ohio Conference.
The SEOAL was down to four full-time members by that time, then Gallia Academy left altogether for the OVC.
The fear, before the FAC, was that Jackson would be left out in the cold as an independent, which creates scheduling nightmares.
Fortunately for the Red and White, the FAC was formed with the five SCOL schools — for four years at least.
As for expansion, a potential short list likely includes Unioto, Circleville, Logan Elm, Logan and Waverly — all primarily Division II schools except for Logan, which is mainly Division I.
Logan— following the end of the SEOAL —was left as an independent, while Waverly has long been rumored to be looking to leave the SOC.
In fact, it has applied and been denied acceptance into the Scioto Valley Conference.
Speaking of the SVC, Unioto is the largest member of that Chillicothe-area league — and often the most successful.
Circleville and Logan Elm are members of the Mid-State League, as Logan has long been linked to perhaps joining that conference in the future.
As part of The Highland County Press report, Tutt said “we are open to any school but will need to look at driving distances in regard to travel times for competition.”
Truth be told, geography played a key role in the SEOAL’s demise.
The oldest non-city athletic league in the state expanded from six schools to 10 in 2004 —before seven schools eventually departed the league over the next dozen years.