It's a well-known fact that James Buchanan's football program has struggled to be competitive for many years.
The Rockets are 0-8 in the midst of a 20-game losing streak, and in the last 20 years they have mustered a total of only 23 victories.
Thursday morning, James Buchanan high school principal Rod Benedick and athletic director Larry Strawoet went to a Mid Penn Conference board of directors meeting and took a giant first step toward what they hope is a radical method to give the program some help.
"We made a formal request to the Mid Penn to be released from our conference football schedule," Strawoet said. "It could happen as early as next fall."
The board of directors did not act on the request Thursday, although Strawoet and Benedick got plenty of feedback - mostly positive, they said.
"Everybody in the room was very understanding," Strawoet said.
The board includes 15 members, three superintendents and three league officers.
The Mid Penn will hold a general meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 2, in Hershey, and the proposal will be voted on by the entire league membership at that time. For the request to be approved, it would need to have two-thirds of the membership vote in its favor.
Strawoet and Benedick held a meeting for football parents Thursday evening to explain the situation.
A member of the Mid Penn since 1992, the school is asking to withdraw from the conference for football only. That would allow Strawoet to pursue an independent schedule for the football team, a schedule that would include some independent schools and some smaller schools in the hopes of making the Rockets more competitive.
"There is a lot of uncertainty as to how it will play out, but we've done some research and there are some possibilities out there," Strawoet said.
The hope is that if JB can be more competitive against a different schedule and earn some victories, it might be able to attract more players. And if the program becomes stronger through the years, it's conceivable that it could re-apply to the Mid Penn.
The biggest issue for the league is this: 2017 is the second year of a two-year cycle for scheduling, so the 10 schools currently on JB's schedule — including its other seven Mid Penn Colonial Division opponents — would suddenly have an open date to fill. That's not easy to do in the middle of the scheduling cycle.
Strawoet said if the league accepts JB's proposal, but wants to wait until 2018 to implement it, he would understand. He also said that if the measure passes and schools currently on the Rockets' schedule for 2017 were unable to fill the open date, then JB would be willing to play that game.
James Buchanan's last winning football season was in 1995. Coach Ed Snyder put together a total record of 23-16-1 during the first four years the Rockets were Mid Penn members, going 8-2 in 1994 and 6-4 in 1995.
For the next 17 seasons, JB did not win more than two games in any season. Under Andy Stoner, the Rockets were 4-6 in 2013 and 3-7 the following season, but they have lost 20 straight games since then.
The program has been plagued by small rosters. James Buchanan finished last season with just over 20 healthy players and this year the roster has hovered under 30.
James Buchanan football
Here are some facts about the James Buchanan football program, going back to the first year in the Public Opinion records, 1970, which covers 47 years:
100-351-5 (.224): overall record
48-196-1 (.197): record since joining the Mid Penn in 1992
14: number of winless seasons
2.12-7.47: average record
496-15: Point differential in 2015, opponents to JB
456-88: Point differential this season
48: longest non-winning streak (broken in 1992)
37: longest losing streak (broken in 2001)