Although they admit it’s difficult to please all 32 member high schools, officials from the Ohio Capital Conference are satisfied with the realignment plan that was approved by an overwhelming margin Feb. 15.

While geographic issues were a major issue the last time the OCC went through a realignment process, “competitiveness was a bigger factor” this time around, said Dublin Coffman principal Mike Ulring, the executive president of the OCC.

It means the OCC’s five divisions will look a lot different from the current alignment when teams take the field in the fall of 2020.

The plan, which was approved by a vote of 26-5, is the same realignment that was revealed in a ThisWeekSPORTS.com story Feb. 3. It begins with the 2020-21 school year and lasts through the 2023-24 school year.

“Navigating through the alignment process is one of the most difficult components that a large conference has to do when the need presents itself,” OCC commissioner Dave Cecutti said. “I truly don’t believe that you win or lose in this process, but what I do know is that we have a very professional group of administrators among our 32 schools who, in the long run, wanted the best outcome for our student-athletes.”

The previous realignment was for the 2016-17 school year and added the fifth division. No names have been assigned to the realigned divisions.

The vote was conducted by 31 principals with Olentangy Berlin, which opens in the fall, not receiving a vote.

Ulring said the proposal needed 66 percent of the vote to pass.

“We’re fortunate that we have 32 schools with all these kids that get to play sports and we have great coaches,” he said. “To be in this conference with all these great schools, we’re blessed. We’re so fortunate that this is done.”

The new divisions are as follows, with each school’s projected enrollment rank from the list provided Feb. 3 in parentheses. That list said the rankings were under review and could be adjusted before the Feb. 15 vote.

•Six-school division: Gahanna (1), Grove City (4), New Albany (24), Pickerington North (17), Westerville Central (8) and Westland (5)

•Eight-school division: Big Walnut (29), Canal Winchester (32), Delaware (21), Dublin Scioto (27), Franklin Heights (28), Westerville North (25), Westerville South (26) and Worthington Kilbourne (31)

•Six-school division: Dublin Coffman (3), Hilliard Bradley (20), Hilliard Davidson (9), Olentangy Liberty (10), Olentangy Orange (7) and Upper Arlington (12)

•Six-school division: Dublin Jerome (14), Hilliard Darby (22), Marysville (19), Olentangy (18), Olentangy Berlin (30) and Thomas Worthington (16)

•Six-school division: Central Crossing (6), Groveport (23), Lancaster (11), Newark (13), Pickerington Central (15) and Reynoldsburg (2).

Bradley, Canal Winchester, Groveport, New Albany and Westland voted no.

Under the current alignment, Canal Winchester, Groveport and New Albany are in the OCC-Capital with Big Walnut, Franklin Heights and Newark. Westland is in the OCC-Central with Central Crossing, Coffman, Davidson, Marysville and UA.

Bradley is in the OCC-Cardinal with Delaware, Darby, Jerome, Kilbourne, Scioto and Thomas, while Berlin will join that division in the fall.

The other two divisions are the OCC-Buckeye (Liberty, Olentangy, Orange, Westerville Central, Westerville North and Westerville South) and the OCC-Ohio (Gahanna, Grove City, Lancaster, Pickerington Central, Pickerington North and Reynoldsburg).

“The No. 1 problem is that we’re a Division II football school,” New Albany athletics director Richie Wildenhaus said. “There is a Division II football alignment, the eight-school division, and we’re the only Division II school outside Berlin not included in that alignment. Delaware, a Division I school, is in that division. We’re going to play five guaranteed games against Division I opponents, including four of the top eight schools (enrollment-wise) in the OCC. We’re 24th.

“We can’t (have) crossover (games) against the eight-team division, so we’re looking at seven games against Division I schools. We’ve been competitive in the past, but to be the only Division II football school (in our division) is a different issue.”

Groveport athletics director Steve Petros said the school wanted to be in the same division as Canal Winchester.

“It’s the closest school to us in proximity and we have a good rivalry with them,” he said. “We know we can schedule them in the non-league, but we’d really like the home-and-home with them in everything but football.”

Ulring said if a school decides to leave the OCC, it must provide a two-year notice, per conference bylaws. He said the alignment is reviewed annually and the addition of Berlin sparked the latest proposal.

“We just put them in Mount Vernon’s (former) spot knowing that we will have to consider (realigning),” Ulring said. “There are different reasons for looking at it and we would like to keep this for 10 years for lots of reasons, (such as) consistency (and developing) rivalries, but schools change, enrollments change, schools get added. You have to consider all those things. Any school at any time can ask to be realigned. We would like to never do another alignment again for as long as this league exists.”

The realignment committee that helped develop the proposal consisted of five athletics directors and five principals, each from the five current divisions and from different school districts.

Westerville Central athletics director Andy Ey headed that committee, which also included athletics directors Molly Feesler (Pickerington North), Tony Pusateri (UA), Jeff Quackenbush (Newark) and Jeff Todd (Kilbourne). The principals on the committee were Aaron Cookson (Davidson), Bobby Dodd (Gahanna), Andy Jados (Big Walnut), Ric Stranges (Delaware) and William Warfield (Liberty).

“We came out with a really strong vote, so I’m happy about that,” Ey said. “I’m happy with how the process worked and I’m happy that we came out with a new alignment that the vast majority of our schools voted for. … You’re not going to please everybody. It’s acceptable and we can work with it. It’s the best combination of things to work for the other 31 schools in the (conference) as well.”

Ulring said that during the initial stages of the process, the conference’s athletics directors were given a survey and asked to rate their requirements for an acceptable realignment. Competitiveness was rated as the most important issue.

“It’s always a difficult process,” Ulring said. “There are a lot of emotions that go along with it. It boils down to we have 32 schools. You cannot perfectly put 32 schools together. It’s not possible and you have schools that are small, you have very big schools. You have socioeconomic different schools. We have schools an hour and a half away all in the same conference, so putting them all together is an enormous task.

“Just like you do in your classroom where you want to create the best environment for your kids to learn, you want to create the best environment for your kids to be successful in sports.”

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank

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Below are the recently approved OCC realignment plan, which begins with the 2020-21 school year, and the current alignment, which began with the 2016-17 school year:

REALIGNMENT PLAN

Six-school division: Gahanna, Grove City, New Albany, Pickerington North, Westerville Central and Westland

Eight-school division: Big Walnut, Canal Winchester, Delaware, Dublin Scioto, Franklin Heights, Westerville North, Westerville South and Worthington Kilbourne

Six-school division: Dublin Coffman, Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard Davidson, Olentangy Liberty, Olentangy Orange and Upper Arlington

Six-school division: Dublin Jerome, Hilliard Darby, Marysville, Olentangy, Olentangy Berlin and Thomas Worthington

Six-school division: Central Crossing, Groveport, Lancaster, Newark, Pickerington Central and Reynoldsburg

CURRENT ALIGNMENT

OCC-Buckeye: Olentangy, Olentangy Liberty, Olentangy Orange, Westerville Central, Westerville North and Westerville South

OCC-Cardinal: Delaware, Dublin Jerome, Dublin Scioto, Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard Darby, Olentangy Berlin (opening this fall), Thomas Worthington and Worthington Kilbourne

OCC-Capital: Big Walnut, Canal Winchester, Franklin Heights, Groveport, New Albany and Newark

OCC-Central: Central Crossing, Dublin Coffman, Hilliard Davidson, Marysville, Upper Arlington and Westland

OCC-Ohio: Gahanna, Grove City, Lancaster, Pickerington Central, Pickerington North and Reynoldsburg