MANTUA — Crestwood voted Tuesday to leave the Portage Trail Conference after the 2019-2020 season.
The Crestwood Local School District Board of Education voted 4-1 to leave the County Division for the Chagrin Valley Conference, commencing play in 2020-21.
Crestwood’s move still needs approval from the CVC.
“I think it’s a great day for our Crestwood kids,” Athletic Director Brett Koch said after Tuesday’s meeting. “The CVC offers a lot.”
Board members Bonnie Lovejoy, Todd Monroe, Karen Schulz and Shawn Semety voted in favor Tuesday.
Kristen Cavanaugh cast the lone dissenting vote after expressing concerns about increased dues in the CVC, more than double what Crestwood is paying in the PTC.
“I just want to be sure that we’re being fiscally responsible to the taxpayers,” Cavanaugh said.
In addition to arguing that his league’s expansive roster of activities is worth the increase in cost, CVC Commissioner Don Lewis noted his goal of bringing in corporate sponsorships, starting this year, with the added money potentially going toward reducing league dues. He told the board members Tuesday that “we’re at the point where we have over $25,000 committed to the league.”
“The question is what are we going to do with that,” Lewis told the board. “That will be up to the league. My vision would be twofold. Number one is we would bring down the fees. Also, I would like to establish a league-wide scholarship for the kids.”
Cavanaugh also raised concerns about how rivalries would be built in a league that re-examines divisions for each sport every two years.
“Those are two great questions,” Lewis said after the meeting. “I told her I would have asked the same thing, the rivalries and the money. What I want to explain was the increase in fees versus what we’re going to provide in the Chagrin Valley Conference is worth it.”
Among the services provided by the CVC are a third-party commissioner, a polished league website and an expanded roster of off-the-field activities, including a choir concert, a robotics showcase and football and basketball awards shows.
As for the rivalries, Koch said he will do what he can to preserve longstanding relationships.
“Obviously, the rivalries and relationships that we have with these PTC County schools are great and we want to continue those,” Koch said. “We still want to play Garfield, Rootstown, Southeast, Mogadore, and we still want to play these schools in non-conference games and have those relationships, but at the end of the day, what we felt like is the most sustainable was making this move, so over time I think we’ll be able to build rivalries.
“Obviously, they might not be as passionate as Garfield because it’s your neighbor, and you see those people at the grocery store, but the more you play these other schools, I think those rivalries are going to come. It’s just going to take time.”
From the start, Monroe argued in favor of the move Tuesday, noting the county only has seven schools with no clear plan for expansion. He added that two of the County Division’s schools, Lake Center Christian and Valley Christian, are far away and don’t offer key sports, and added that sports like wrestling would struggle once the Metro Division schools split off in 2020-21.
“To me, this is moving us forward,” Monroe said. “I’ve been around here all my life, been a part of the PCL and PTC and all that stuff, but I don’t see the PTC as currently constructed on the county side moving anywhere.”
Monroe brought up scheduling concerns, noting that in football, with just six teams in the County Division, there are five non-conference games, two more than many teams throughout the state. That has led to less-than-ideal games (and long road trips), especially in Week 4 and Week 5 when most teams are already in conference play.
“To me, it’s a no-brainer,” Monroe said. “If we wait, we’ll be lost. ... We have to look to the future. We [can’t] just stand around and be stagnant.”
Lovejoy chimed in, asking twice, “Can we afford this?”
“In my recommendation, the benefit we’re getting from the conference is worth the extra [money],” Superintendent David Toth said.
“It is the taxpayers’ money, so you do want to be fiscally responsible with that,” Koch said. “At the end of the day, I think that the services that are going to be provided are so much greater that it’s worth it.”
With Crestwood’s departure, pending approval by the CVC, the County Division would be down to six schools: Garfield, Lake Center Christian, Mogadore, Rootstown, Southeast and Valley Christian.
Garfield Superintendent Ted Lysiak reiterated his commitment to keeping the four core Portage County schools — Garfield, Mogadore, Rootstown and Southeast — together.
“We were really hopeful that Crestwood would stick around, stick with the PTC and allow us to move forward with the traditions that we have, but all things change,” Lysiak said. “So the four of us that do still remain are still committed to one another and we want to do the best we can to stick together and explore the options that will allow us to stick together.”
While Lysiak said the County Division isn’t officially dead — he called a six-team league a “possibility” though a “tricky” one — he said the four Portage County schools will immediately look at other options, but as a group.
“It might seem obvious that you have to kind of go looking outside as a first step,” Lysiak said. “That really would be counterproductive to what we value and that is sticking together. So really the first place we have to look to is internally, talk with these four schools and together look at the options outside and come to a consensus with the four of us to determine what [a] league looks like. If we’re going to examine the option of going to a different league, what’s a league that we can all agree on?”