Is Lehighton finally going to leave the Mountain Valley Conference?
After having numerous applications to join the Colonial League rejected over the past decade, the latest word is that the Indian sports program are considering membership in the Anthracite Football League and the Schuylkill League.
First-year Lehighton Athletic Director Kyle Spotts confirmed the rumors are true.
"We were presented with an opportunity to join the Anthracite Football League," said Spotts. "After meeting with our athletic committee, we have decided to explore all options."
Those options include the Schuylkill League in sports other than football.
"We have had preliminary talks with the Schuylkill League," Spotts admitted.
The TIMES NEWS has learned from a source with connections to the Schuylkill League that Lehighton was told that if it would submit an application, it would be considered for membership in the Schuylkill League for the 2014-15 school year.
According to another source, Lehighton was going to ask for that process to be accelerated, allowing the Indians admittance for the 2013-14 school year.
Lehighton has been a member of the Mountain Valley Conference since 1994. The school has been looking to find a better fit for its sports team for more than a decade, first applying to the Colonial League in 1997.
With a total enrollment of just 585 students in grades 9 through 11 according to the latest PIAA figures, Lehighton is significantly smaller than every other school in the MVC. Pleasant Valley, the largest school in the league has over a thousand more students than Lehighton with a total enrollment of 1,674. Other league enrollments are Pocono Mountain West (1,571), Stroudsburg (1,411), Pocono Mountain East (1,227), East Stroudsburg South (1,182) and East Stroudsburg North (956).
By contrast, the Indians would find themselves as the fourth largest school in the Schuylkill League, where the enrollments range from Nativity's 128 to Pottsville's 868.
The Anthracite Football League consists on nine schools. Lehighton currently plays four of those schools Marian, Tamaqua, Panther Valley and Jim Thorpe. Other schools in the league are Mahanoy Area, Minersville, Shenandoah, Schuylkill Haven and North Schuylkill. There have also been rumors that Blue Mountain is considering applying for membership in the AFL.
In recent years, Lehighton has struggled to field winning teams in the "money sports" competing in the MVC.
In football, the Indians have not had a winning record in the MVC since 2006. In the last five seasons, they have an 8-22 record in the conference.
In boys basketball, Lehighton just broke a 59-game MVC losing streak, which dated back to 2007.
The one obvious negative in joining the Schuylkill League for Lehighton would be the fact that the league doesn't sponsor field hockey – which has been the Indians most successful sports program over the years. Options for Lehighton would be to play an independent field hockey schedule or try to join a league as an associate member for that sport.
The Schuylkill League and Mountain Valley Conference both hold meetings next week.
The next Lehighton School board meeting is February 27.
Ed Hedes also contributed to this story.