Changes are coming to the Inter-Tri County League.
Exactly what the changes are won't be known until late January or early February next year, but early indications have Lisbon and Mineral Ridge dropping down to the lower tier for the 2012-13 school year, while Southern Local and Jackson-Milton will be placed in the upper tier.
According to preliminary Education Management Information System (EMIS) enrollment numbers reported to the Ohio Department of Education in October, Mineral Ridge will have lost 64 students in grades 9 through 11 since the last survey was completed in 2008. Lisbon's EMIS total fell 13 students to 235 according to the new numbers.
Every two years, the Ohio High School Athletic Association uses the EMIS enrollment numbers to set divisions in varsity sports throughout the state.
The ITCL also uses these numbers to determine its division set-up according to league by-laws.
According to the numbers reported in October, Jackson-Milton's numbers are up 20 from the last survey period, while Southern has added 10. If all reported ITCL school EMIS numbers were to remain constant, those two schools would be placed in the upper tier for the 2012-13 school year.
The problem is four schools are separated by a total of four students in the preliminary EMIS numbers. Southern Local (239), Columbiana (238), Jackson-Milton (237) and Lisbon (235) are so close that a slight adjustment in the EMIS totals by the Ohio Department of Education during this period of review could skew things a bit.
"We won't know anything for sure until the numbers are reviewed and announced in late January or February," ITCL commissioner Paul Andraso said.
Andraso said the schools in the league agreed to this method of separating divisions when it came into existence in the fall of 2006. He also said any it's too late for any by-law changes to affect division realignment for 2012-2013.
Lisbon athletic director Don Feren said he was blown away by how many students Mineral Ridge had dropped, but didn't have a clear opinion regarding the Blue Devils' fate.
"Usually the final numbers remain pretty consistent with the October numbers, but we just have to wait and see at this point," Feren said.
Columbiana athletic director Bob Spaite also said he expects the numbers to stay about the same, but said he did recall a time when he saw a 20-something student mistake due to a clerical error at Columbiana.
"That was a fluke, though," Spaite said.
Southern Local athletic director Deb Boyd said she would not comment on the changes until they are made official.
"That's our policy here," Boyd said.
Any tie in enrollment numbers will be broken by a coin-flip.
As for the effect of the changes, most of it will be felt in football as most schools in the ITCL enjoy solid scheduling relationships in other sports.
"My main concern as an AD is if they juggle this every two years, it could be a pain-in-the-neck for scheduling out-of-league games," Spaite said.
Spaite did admit that it would make his job easier if the Clippers were bumped down to the lower tier.
"I know teams like East Palestine, Crestview and South Range would schedule us, so that wouldn't be a problem," Spaite said. "It's just trying to figure out who is going to be where that could be an issue as far as scheduling goes."
The competitive football balance in the upper tier has remained rather consistent since the beginning of the league, but the addition of two new teams could mix it up a bit.
"I think it will be all right, but I could see Jackson-Milton struggling in football," Spaite said. "We'll have to see what happens."
Unlike Southern, which has raised its football profile in recent seasons, the Bluejays have not won more than three games in a season since the league began.
Lisbon, which has won one football game in three seasons, may welcome the drop to the lower tier as a chance to rebuild the program. Mineral Ridge, which has had some success in the upper tier, could add spice to its lower tier rivalry with McDonald if the changes take place.
There are also indications the league is looking at expansion, but that was an issue the ITCL Board of Controls crushed when it was brought up before.
"We've got 16 teams here and I think it's a very good set-up," Spaite said. "We're just going through some growing pains right now."