Lehighton gets Schuylkill invite
The invitation has been extended.
It now appears likely that in just a few weeks, Lehighton will be joining a new scholastic sports league.
On Thursday, the Schuylkill League met with Lehighton officials and extended an invitation to join the league for the 2014-15 school year.
That invitation can't be officially accepted until the Lehighton School Board meets on Feb. 27, but all indications are that Lehighton will jump at the offer.
Two area Schuylkill League schools that share similar location and enrollment with Lehighton are Tamaqua and Panther Valley. Because of that, the three schools will more than likely play in the same division in most sports.
It's something that both Tamaqua Athletic Director Mike Homyak and Panther Valley Athletic Director Kristin Black are excited about.
"The vote to bring in Lehighton was unanimous among the Schuylkill League Athletic Directors," said Homyak. "From Tamaqua's perspective, I think it will be a great fit. Lehighton is close by, it's a bigger school, and it's a school we already play in a lot of sports.
"I'm certainly excited about the possibility of Lehighton being part of the Schuylkill League. I think it will be very competitive in all sports."
Black added, "I think it's a great idea. Lehighton is a great school district and we already play its teams in most sports.
"This is a situation where everyone wins. I think Lehighton is a great fit for the Schuylkill League and the Schuylkill League is a great fit for Lehighton."
If the move does become a reality, it will end a long relationship between Lehighton and the Mountain Valley Conference. For the past 18 years, all of Lehighton's sports teams have been part of the MVC.
Almost from day one, however, Lehighton realized the MVC was far from a perfect fit. Disparate enrollment numbers between Lehighton and other league schools has been a problem from the outset.
As early as 1997, Lehighton applied to the Colonial League for membership. But the Colonial League turned down that request and at least a half dozen other Lehighton applications to join the league in the years since. Lehighton's most recent attempt to join the league came last May and fell three votes short of the 80 percent majority needed for approval.
In the last few months, the TIMES NEWS learned that Lehighton had changed direction in its pursuit to find a more analogous fit for its sports teams. With numerous Lehighton sports teams already playing non-league games against Schuylkill League teams, with enrollment numbers in the league very comparable, and with the proximity of a number of league schools to Lehighton, it didn't take long for the talks to gain momentum.
In addition to the Schuylkill League, which sponsors every sport that Lehighton fields teams in except football and field hockey, Lehighton has been in touch with the Anthracite Football League and expects to receive a formal invitation following the AFL's next meeting.
Originally, Lehighton was hoping to join the Schuylkill League and Anthracite Football League for the 2013-14 season, but because of enrollment and scheduling cycles all sides have agreed that 2014-15 would make the most sense.