With nearby Battle Creek Pennfield and Vermontville Maple Valley leaving the Kalamazoo Valley Association after the 2013-14 school year, Olivet High School looked at the possibility of doing the same.
After considering the Capital Area Activities Conference (CAAC), as well as the new Interstate 8 league of primarily Battle Creek and Jackson area schools that Charlotte joined last summer, Olivet decided on the new Greater Lansing Athletic Conference that will also start up this fall.
The Eagles will become the second-largest school in the GLAC with 505 students behind only current CAAC White member Lake Odessa Lakewood (656 students). Perry (493) will be moving from the Genesee Area Conference Red division, Stockbridge (461) from the CAAC White, Leslie (456) and Lansing Christian (196) from being independents for two years after the dissolution of the Southern Michigan Activities Association, and Maple Valley (405 students) from the KVA.
“I look forward to it from a basketball standpoint, because it will open up some non-conference games to fit the needs of that particular team,” Olivet girls basketball coach Rob Fleming said. “(In the 10-team KVA,) we’re held to 18 league games, and it’s very difficult to schedule nonleague games according to coaching side of things. This should be a huge plus.”
Fleming’s teams have been strong in recent years. This year’s team is 9-1 and ranked 12th in Class B in the latest Associated Press poll.
But graduation of strong athletic classes can change a school’s scheduling needs. An example might be Leslie, which went from 12-2 in 2008 to 1-8 in 2009 in football as well as 8-2 in 2012 to 0-9 in 2013.
Also in football, Olivet had the strongest team of GLAC schools last fall with a 10-2 record. Stockbridge was 4-5, Perry 2-7, Maple Valley 2-7, Lakewood 0-9, Leslie 0-9 and Lansing Christian doesn’t field a football team. Adding a sixth football school avoids byes in league play that would have been necessary in a league with just five football schools.
New Olivet athletic director Matt Seidl posted other reasons for making the switch amid an announcement of the school board’s approval of the league switch on the olivetathletics .com web site Tuesday.
“The KVA is exploring expansion west of Kalamazoo,” said Seidl, meaning that the average round trip to league contests might actually go up in the future from an average of 97 miles.
“The average round trip in the GLAC would be 69 miles,” he said. “Olivet will obviously have to play more nonleague games since the GLAC has two fewer schools than the KVA, but most of those contests will be against local schools.”
Another reason for the switch is a probable increase in gate receipts.
“Since Olivet’s opponents (both league and nonleague) are closer, they are more likely to travel well,” he said.
Other reasons cited were Olivet’s larger voice in important league decisions in the GLAC than in the KVA and a likely increased presence in Lansing area media because of playing more Lansing area schools.
The final reason was that the GLAC has secured a sponsor, the Lansing Automakers Federal Credit Union (LAFCU).
“The organization has agreed to offset initial costs such as gymnasium banners, and also will purchase league medals and trophies,” Seidl said in the announcement. “No other area conference has this luxury.”