Could Northern join the YAIAA? Some say it's a 'natural fit'
Northern High School and the YAIAA could be close to joining forces in a move that would cut travel costs and ease scheduling troubles.
Northern is looking for a chance to keep its athletic teams closer to home — and to play more opponents with similar enrollment numbers, said athletic director Gerry Schwille. The YAIAA, meanwhile, wishes to even its membership.
And this fit could be finalized as soon as April.
Northern, located in Dillsburg, is one of only two public high schools in York County that do not belong to the 23-member YAIAA. And that could finally change, after years of considering the move from the larger and ever-shifting Mid Penn Conference.
(Red Land is the other York County school that competes in the Mid Penn. However, it's unlikely to split from its sister school, Cedar Cliff in Cumberland County, because both are part of the West Shore School District.)
Northern officials have inquired about making the move in time for the 2018-19 school year. The district will hold two public information meetings on the matter. The first is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday at Northern's middle school.
Northern could be voted into the YAIAA this spring, said league executive director Chuck Abbott.
Gettysburg athletic director Mike Williams said he doesn't expect any league opposition to the move.
"I think Northern is a natural fit," said South Western High athletic director Don Seidenstricker. "As a league, I hope we would welcome them."
"It's really a no-brainer for our league," said Eastern athletic director Don Knaub.
As noted by Seidenstricker and other ADs, the Polar Bears already frequently play several YAIAA teams in non-league action, and they field varsity teams in every main sport. They also have similar enrollment numbers to the teams in YAIAA Division II — which currently has an odd number of teams and would be more balanced if another team were added.
For now, the Polar Bears participate in the Mid Penn's Colonial Division, which necessitates several hour-plus bus rides to play divisional opponents such as Mifflin County or James Buchanan, in Franklin County.
"There's no rhyme or reason (to divisions). That's the mystery to the Mid-Penn," Schwille said. "We're all over the place, we've been in every division."
If accepted into the YAIAA, Northern would participate in Division II in most sports — making an even eight teams with Dover, Eastern, West York, Gettysburg, Kennard-Dale, Susquehannock and York Suburban. That move would eliminate scheduling conflicts, including dreaded byes.
Because YAIAA Division II has an odd number of football teams, those seven schools are struggling to find midseason, non-league opponents in order to play a 10th game. Next fall, Eastern will travel two and a half hours to powerful District 6 opponent Central Martinsburg because it cannot find anyone else, Knaub said.
"It's not ideally a school we want to schedule," he said, "but it's either play them or play just nine games."
And even if it does move, Northern should be able to maintain its most important Mid Penn rivals, including Mechanicsburg, Carlisle and East Pennsboro. And Schwille said the Polar Bears already possess athletic relationships with YAIAA schools such as Dover, Northeastern and recent Mid Penn expatriate Gettysburg, which joined the YAIAA in the fall of 2014.
"I think we can compete (successfully) down there," Schwille said.