Union Local to exit Buckeye 8 in 2016

MORRISTOWN – The Buckeye 8 is losing another member.

Union Local informed league officials Tuesday afternoon of its intentions to withdraw from the league as of July 31, 2016, which allows the Jets to fulfill their commitments to the league.

“There are a multitude of reasons,” said Union Local Athletic Director Zach Powell. “When Union Local joined the Buckeye 8, it was in the best interest of our school, administration, and most importantly, the athletes. But, at this point, we don’t feel it’s in our best interest and we’re committed to doing what is best for our school, coaches and athletes.”

Union Local began considering its withdraw in the summer when an entirely new team of administrators took over. Union Local’s superintendent, principal and Powell are all in their first years in their respective positions with the Jets.

“The fact that we have a new group of administrators probably didn’t hurt anything because it’s a fresh start,” Powell said. “But, I believe it’s been talked about for several years.”

Powell cited the desired flexibility in scheduling as the main reason the Jets were departing the league.

“We just need more freedom in who and when we play,” Powell said. “

Though he was officially non-committal, Powell believes the Jets will continue to play their natural rivals in the league such as St. Clairsville and Martins Ferry down the road.

“A lot could change in three years,” Powell said. “It’ll be up to the coaches and administration. We’re certainly hopeful that our departure from the Buckeye 8 won’t cause any hard feelings or grudges to be held against us, so doors don’t close.”

While football is the sport that stirs the drink most of the time, Powell pointed out that all sports were considered before making any formal decisions.

“We looked at each sport individually and spoke to our coaches and got their thoughts on it, too,” Powell said. “It was a collaborative decision.”

The Jets’ impending departure means the league is down to six committed members.

Bellaire is in its final year of membership. The Big Reds are competing in all sports this school year, but they cited their declining enrollment two years ago when they formally filed to withdraw.

When the Big Reds depart, the Jets will have the smallest enrollment of the league membership.

“Playing bigger schools was also a factor,” Powell said.

“We have 187 boys and 159 girls currently (in the upper three grades), so that’s part of the decision, too.”

The Buckeye 8 will hold its next meeting on Sept. 12 at Zalenski’s in Wintersville.

Staskey can be reached at sstaskey@timesleader-online.com