The early years of the SCOL


Jeff Gilliland


Before it disbanded from 1993 through 2002, the South Central Ohio League was often referred to as the oldest continuously operating conference in the state.

I have talked to many people and have never been able to determine if that was indeed fact, but the league has a long and storied history that dates back to 1922 and includes another interesting disbandment from 1932 to 1936.

I mentioned in this space a week ago that I would delve more into the details on that piece of SCOL history in this week’s column, so here’s how it happened, according to “A History of the South Central Ohio High School Athletic League” written by Paul Edwin Maple in 1964.

The SCOL was organized on Nov. 4, 1922 at the Cherry Hotel in Washington C.H. with six charter schools: Chillicothe, Greenfield McClain, Hillsboro, Circleville, Wilmington and Washington C.H.

The first contests were three football games on Oct. 5, 1923 and at the end of that first season the standings were: Wilmington 5-0-0, Chillicothe 4-1-0, Washington C.H. 3-2-0, Greenfield 1-3-1, Hillsboro 1-4-0 and Circleville 0-4-1.

At the league’s fall meeting that year Frankfort (now Adena) was adopted as member for the following year.

Wilmington also won the SCOL’s first basketball crown with the final standings showing: Wilmington 9-1, Chillicothe 8-2, Greenfield 7-3, Hillsboro 3-7, Washington C.H. 2-8 and Circleville 1-9.

Although the league did not officially recognize any all-league teams in those years, the sports writers covering the league did. The only Highland County selection in football was Pierce, a guard from Greenfield. In basketball, Hillsboro center Snider and Greenfield guard Edmonson were first-teamers, and Edmonson was captain of team. No Highland countians were on the second team, but Redkey of Hillsboro and Mossbarger of Greeenfield were named honorable mention.

The SCOL was popular and successful over the next few years, but in 1929 Circleville made the first ripple when it announced it was leaving the league. By the spring of 1930 storms clouds had gathered on the SCOL’s horizon.

The Dragon, the McClain High School newspaper that was published from 1903 to 1941, gave this version: “Sensational rumors, widely circulated the past weeks that the SCOALeague was on the verge of dissolution because of internal dissension among the members, were definitely and effectively set at rest at the annual spring meeting of the league held in Washington C.H. on Tuesday evening, Feb. 16.

“The widely heralded withdrawal of Frankfort and the predicted withdrawal of Wilmington failed to materialize, nor did either school give any intimation of any dissatisfaction with the present state of affairs in the league. The Hillsboro-Wilmington controversy which has been raging fiercely in the press of the two towns since the recent game between the two schools at Wilmington was not brought to the attention of the league. Apparently, the most amicable relations existed between the two schools.”

But the truce only lasted a year, and Maple said it was action by Greenfield that struck the final blow.

In the final game of the football season on Nov. 16, 1928, Chillicothe beat Greenfield 91-0, followed by losses of 37-0 and 58-0 to Chillicothe the next two years. Despite the fact that Greenfield beat Williamsburg 85-12 in 1930, Maple said “the humiliation at the hands of Chillicothe became unbearable.”

Greenfield did not attend the league meeting in the spring of 1931, instead sending the league a letter saying it wanted to withdraw from the SCOL for football, but remain a member for football and track.

League officials sent a letter back requesting that Greenfield remain in the league, but refusing to accept a withdrawal for football only.

A league committee was appointed to meet with Greenfield officials to discuss the issue, and in another action the league provided for its dissolution if Greenfield withdrew.

The announcement from Greenfield was made by superintendent F.R. Harris in a letter dated March 23, 1931.

In part, the letter said: “We wish to thank the members of the league for consideration given to our request for withdrawal from league competition in football and to assure the members that we fully appreciate the reasons why the request could not be granted. If it were merely a question of difference of opinion we would gladly subordinate our own desires to those of the other schools. It is a matter of vital importance to our school, however. Further consideration only strengthens our conviction that we should maintain football competition on the level of our own athletic attainment.

“We are, therefore, withdrawing from the league at the close of the present school year in accordance with the provisions of the league constitution. We hope to maintain athletic relations with all of the schools in some branches of sport and with some of the schools in all branches of sport. It is with a feeling of deep regret that we break the pleasant association which membership in the league has created.”

The SCOL met for the league track meet at Greenfield on May 12, 1931. Team scores were: Chillicothe 77, Wilmington 66, Washington C.H. 55.5, Greenfield 33.5 and Frankfort 12. Hillsboro was not entered.

Next week, the SCOL re-forms.

Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.

Jeff Gilliland
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