Cumberland Times-News

February 6, 2013

Frankfort to leave AMAC in 2014

Falcons want more games against region teams; vote was unanimous

Mike Burke
Cumberland Times-News

— SHORT GAP, W.Va. — Frankfort High School, a charter member of the Appalachian Mountain Athletic Conference (AMAC), will no longer be a member of the conference following the 2013 fall scholastic sports season, according to Principal Joe Riley. Riley cited the school’s desire to compete more against teams in its West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission region, Region 2, Class AA, as the basis for the decision.

“It’s been a decision we’ve been pushing around as far as football is concerned for some time now,” Riley said. “There have been problems with football and then they did away with football in the AMAC.

“The biggest thing, (Frankfort athletic director Kevin) Shupe gave (the AMAC) three different proposals to free up some games for us in boys and girls basketball in our region. Our region has changed drastically with Bridgeport and Robert C. Byrd coming in, so we want to play people in our region. We had two games available for that, and we are still playing in the (Potomac Valley Conference) and the AMAC. But we were trying to (open up) six games.

“It’s the same thing with baseball and softball. We were trying to play one (game instead of two with each AMAC team) for the same reasons. The voting in our region, with eight teams, goes one through eight, and other teams (in the region) just don’t know us. So we were asking for a little help, basically, but the big three (Allegany, Fort Hill, Mountain Ridge) are basically doing what they want. It’s been that way since the league was put together.”

Frankfort will continue to compete in the AMAC through the current winter athletic season, as well as the 2013 spring and fall seasons.

The AMAC was formed in May of 2006 and began play in the fall of 2007 with Allegany, Fort Hill, Frankfort, Hampshire, Keyser, Mountain Ridge, Northern Garrett and Southern Garrett high schools the charter members. Bishop Walsh has since joined the conference, which was formed to create competition between area schools and to serve as a boost to the schools’ travel budgets. Tom Woods, the original AMAC president, said in 2006 the longstanding wish to have an area football league also played a prominent role in the formation of the league. However, as Riley said, there has not been an AMAC football league in four seasons.

Fort Hill Principal Steve Lewis, the current AMAC president, expressed disappointment with Frankfort’s decision, saying, “I’ve been saying it. I think it’s sad that we’re not playing local. I think (a local schedule is) good for interest in local sports, it’s good for the economy, it’s good for parents because there’s not any travel, and any all-star team or all-area team, this just kind of hurts it.

“Frankfort has some great athletes over there. I’m just sad they pulled out.”

Riley said the feeling is unanimous among the Frankfort coaches that the school will be better served playing in-state schools with similar enrollments to Frankfort’s.

“It’s going to hurt us some,” he said, “but we needed to step back to try to get our boys sports teams more successful. As I said, we’re still in the PVC, and what people don’t realize is how small our school is getting. We have 524 kids, and while we’re very competitive in girls sports, we’ve been struggling in boys sports.

“This was not a Joe Riley or Kevin Shupe decision. We had a meeting last Thursday with all of our coaches and they voted unanimously to get out of the AMAC for some other reasons as well. (The coaches are) not upset, but it wasn’t solely my decision or Kevin’s. We talked to our booster clubs and they’re supporting this decision, so this is what we’re going to do.

“With football having trouble competing, sometimes you have to put your school first, and that’s what we’re going to do. Our coaches made this decision.”

When asked if Frankfort would continue to play AMAC teams once it is no longer a conference member, Riley said, “We were told by the big three — and I call them that because they dominate everything that happens — they would play us in nothing. I’m sure Keyser and Hampshire will still play us — they’re our rivals and, of course, Keyser is a Mineral County school. Plus, I have a good feeling about some others, but I’m confident Mountain Ridge, Fort Hill and Allegany won’t. And that doesn’t surprise us a bit.

“But you know, if they were in that position to do something for their kids, they’d do it. It’s not that they haven’t done the same thing we’re trying to do now. I do wish they would have worked with Kevin because he really put a lot of time and thought into this so it would allow us to play schools in Fairmont or Bridgeport — a little more open area. But they didn’t want to do that. It was all or nothing.”

Lewis confirmed that Fort Hill would not play the Falcons once they left the conference, saying, “We’re not going to play somebody who is not in the league.”

Riley reiterated Frankfort’s decision is tied to its desire to be more competitive in Region 2.

“This is more of a region thing for us more than anything,” he said. “Our girls basketball team did go out there to East Fairmont to play in a Christmas tournament, and that’s what we’re looking for. We have to compete with those schools in (Class AA) in the state of West Virginia.”

Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at mburke@times-news.com