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Colonial League rejects expansion

Published May 25. 2011 05:00PM

The vote was closer than it was two years ago.

But it still wasn't close to being enough for Lehighton.

On Tuesday morning at Green Pond Country Club, the Colonial League once again considered expansion and Lehighton was once again one of the schools hoping to get in. But as has happened time and time again during the past 14 years, the league voted to keep the status quo.

Colonial League principals voted 7-5 for expansion, but that fell three votes short of the 80 percent majority needed to pass the motion. That motion would have allowed Lehighton and Jim Thorpe to join the league and have Moravian Academy and Notre Dame East Stroudsburg move from associate members to full time members.

According to Northern Lehigh Athletic Director and Colonial League President Bryan Geist, the league met in March and came up with two options for its members to consider - either remain at 12 schools or add Lehighton, Jim Thorpe, Moravian Academy and Notre Dame East Stroudsburg to increase the league to 16 members.

Geist said that at the March meeting it was agreed that there would be no other options voted on. Schools wouldn't be considered on a one-by-one basis. It was all or nothing.

Because of that, Geist said there was no discussion at yesterday's meeting.

"We reserved a time for discussion in case any of our member schools had anything to say prior to the vote, but none of the schools did," said Geist. "The athletic directors and principals took the two options back to their school and they had two months to decide what way they were going to vote.

"So when they showed up Tuesday, I think every school knew what way it was voting. There was no need to lobby."

Since the Colonial League expanded to its current 12-school format in 1994, this is the fifth time Lehighton has applied for membership. Lehighton also made formal applications to the league in 1997, 1999, 2001 and 2008. Although the seven yes votes this year is an improvement over the 11-1 rejection it received three years ago, it still left Lehighton Principal Tim Tkach very disappointed.

"A few months ago when we submitted our membership request to the league, I got a lot of positive feedback," said Tkach. "We thought we had a pretty good shot of being accepted.

"But in the last couple of weeks, we were hearing rumors that some schools who we thought were going to be behind the expansion might be changing their mind. I guess those rumors proved to be correct."

Tkach, who attended the meeting on Tuesday morning, said the school's application to the Colonial League was not because it was unhappy with the Mountain Valley Conference.

"The MVC has been great to us," said Tkach. "We love our relationship with all of the schools in the league.

"This is primarily about enrollment. We will graduate 143 kids this year and we're competing against schools that are graduating four or five times that amount. That's tough to overcome on the playing field.

"But we have great coaches and great student athletes and I'm confident that we will continue to compete to the best of our ability in all sports."

The seven schools that voted for expansion were Palmerton, Northwestern, Southern Lehigh, Palisades, Wilson, Notre Dame of Green Pond and Saucon Valley. The five schools that voted against it were Northern Lehigh, Catasauqua, Salisbury, Pen Argyl and Bangor.

Meanwhile, Jim Thorpe Athletic Director Dustin McAndrew said that his involvement in the Colonial League's expansion vote was minimal.

"I honestly didn't even know how the vote went until a writer called me for my reaction to it on Tuesday afternoon," said McAndrew. "It was basically some of our school board members who wanted to check out the option because they thought it could save some money.

"But Jim Thorpe is very happy with the Schuylkill League and the Anthracite Football League. We never had a problem with our current league status. I'm not even sure what we would have done had the vote gone the other way and we would have been accepted. That would have been up to the school board."

Although Colonial League expansion is now dead for at least two years, Tkach said Lehighton is going to continue to look at what is best for the its student athletes and the school district.

"I'm sure the economy had some role to play in this," said Tkach. "I don't know how much it mattered, but I'm sure a lot of the Colonial League schools at least looked at that factor.

"Travel can be expensive for schools and athletics are going to be changing as schools scramble to keep their sports' programs going.

"I know there has been talk by some athletic directors of having a super conference in District 11 that is similar to what District 7 has now. In this economic climate, where schools are trying to save money, a super conference that can be aligned by both the size of schools and the location of schools is something that needs to be looked into."

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