Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University and pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeye baseball team from 1971 through 1974.  He furthered his baseball career as a minor league league umpire for seven years, working in the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA).  He has written for numerous websites, and for eight years served as a regular columnist and photo editor for Gettysburg Magazine, published by Morningside Books, in Dayton, Ohio.  Widely knowledgable on that period of American History, Fulks is a frequent speaker on the Civil War at local roundtables throughout the country.  Involved with a number of writing projects, he and wife Mindy have two grown children and live in Covington, Ohio.

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Regardless of who’s upset…regardless of their reason…the facts surrounding the football future of the Cross County Conference are not likely to change with current attitudes.  That is, unless people are willing to change with them.

When Press Pros colleague, and Newton athletic director Bob Huelsman, posted his recent column pertaining to the lack of activity for improvement regarding Cross County Conference football, one long-time resident from a community in that league told me face-to-face.

“You’re going to hear about that.  That’s going to ‘hack’ some people off (and he didn’t say ‘hack’).”

And we’d already heard from some, relative to articles posted on PPM after the 2011 season…pertaining to the competitive dificiencies, or at least “perceived” deficiencies of the upper-tier programs in the CCC who suffer in the postseason for what so many point to as a lack of competitive balance within the league. 

While Covington, Miami East, Ansonia, Arcanum and Bethel generally field competitive teams on a perennial basis, for most of the remaining six schools its a yearly matter of catch as catch can, while they suffer from fluctuating numbers and individual interest for football from its available athletes.

“We do the best we can with the kids we have,”  came one comment to Press Pros after our January blog post on CCC football. “For the kids we have that just want to play football, it shouldn’t matter what anyone else thinks.”  The issue, they went on to say, is about the kids having the opportunity to play on their own terms.

And while that may be so in Mississinawa, or at National Trail and Twin Valley South, the standard for competitive credibility has been raised, around and beyond the fact of those schools with the attitude of…why can’t we be what we are?

In the background of all this there is the whispered matter of conference loyalty…between those charter schools who came together to form a conference a generation ago that offered a better competitive opportunity in football than they previously did not enjoy in leagues like the now-defunct Southwest Rivers Conference, the Southwest Buckeye Conference, the MAC, or the Central Buckeye Conference.  One for all, and all for one, apparently!

But the truth of the matter is…what good is loyalty when the byword for the league’s reputation in football is mediocrity, or worse?

The truth of the matter is…how does a league that’s so far-flung geographically serve the needs of the taxpayers in terms of fiscal responsibility.  Travel between many schools is brutal.  Bethel to Mississinawa is a haul!

The truth of the matter is…if the football playoffs are “that” important, which every rank-and-file football zealot will fight to defend, then why penalize teams that would benefit from better competition by staying with the status quo.

The truth of the matter is…that for the sake of conference loyalty, it is more convenient for administration when all your scheduling issues are taken care of within the league?  Again it doesn’t take much to figure out that finding one non-conference opponent takes less time and effort than three.

But all for one doesn’t work anymore for schools like Covington and Miami East, who wither under the post-season competition in Divisions V and VI from the likes of Marion Local and Coldwater, schools that have 75 players in uniform…not when you’ve honed up against weaker schools in a league that struggle to dress 30. 

That’s hard to swallow, yes, but a competitive fact that’s irrefutable.

And so, to those who’ve written to the site in recent days, to register an opinion about Bob Huelsman’s post pertaining to the league’s football profile, it is what is…purely his opinion.  But one based on fact and experience.  So yes, when you consider these truths in the matter it probably is time for those area small-school programs that want to play better football…to come together and play better football!

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that football is not, and should not be, the sole priority of schools that are there in the first place to educate the children of the community.  That’s another irrefutable.

But for those schools that do make football a competitive issue beyond the fact of the tenth game of the regular season, there should be consideration given to the fact of change, or you’d think so, anyway.

After all, from the “academics” we constantly hear that “change” is a good thing, that as the bar is raised so too should the goals of those effected by the change.  This is certainly true in the classroom, and the administration of the Ohio High School Athletic Association constantly remind that the playing field is nothing more than an extension of the classroom…different lessons, surely, but no less important in terms of life lessons learned and their ultimate benefits.

And this we know.  Mediocrity would not be tolerated in the classroom, where jobs and funding are at stake!

And for that reason alone, I would have to believe that even the weaker football schools in the league would welcome consideration of scheduling flexibility that portends them a better developmental and competitive opportunity, the basis around which the Cross County Conference was originally organized.

Some have mentioned that Bob’s column was out of line, for the fact of his position as an athletic director in the league, albeit at a school that does not play football.

But I’ve read Bob’s column repeatedly.  I don’t find it inflammatory, and I don’t find it condemning of any one person or school.

In fact, if you read it accurately it is the ultimate “what if” scenario put to words, most sentences ending with a question mark?  Bob and I disagree regularly, and on a wide range of subjects.  But this time…I tip my cap to his candor for saying publicly what others have believed and said in private for years.

After all, has he suggested anything other than…improvement?  And, aren’t we doing this, as we like to say…for the sake of the kids?

A journalism professor of mine in college once said that the truth comes in many flavors.  “Everyone loves strawberry,”  Walt Siefert would say.  “Rhubarb is another matter.

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