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A History of the Cardinal Conference

After earlier attempts in 1949 and 1953 a meeting to form the Cardinal Conference was held at the Ashland County Club in the spring of 1955. Present at the meeting were Athletic Directors, Principals, and coaches from three schools ( Ashland, Madison, and Wooster), and the sportswriters from their three local newspapers. A committee of ADs: George Valentine from Ashland, Gene Coleman from Wooster, and Blaine Dowler from Mansfield Madison began a search for another school from a "possible" list of Coshocton, Fostoria, and Canton South. While the groundwork for a 4-team league was discussed, the Cardinal Athletic Conference did not become a reality until April 8, 1959. The four charter members were Ashland, Dover, Mansfield Madison, and Wooster. The first officers were: James R. Wiand (Ashland), President: Rolland Sayre (Wooster), Vice-President; and Roger McGee (Madison), Secretary-Treasurer.

Their first competition was the CC track meet in the Spring of 1960. In 1961 Mansfield Malabar, Coshocton, and New Philadelphia joined the 7-team alignment with full competition in the 1963-64 school year. The first Conference Commissioner was Don Welsh of Wooster. He was followed by O.J. Thompson of Smithville. In the 1970's Joe Romano of Mansfield began serving, and in the 80's Jim Roman of New Philadelphia was the final commissioner.

While the conference originally held championships in only four sports (football, basketball, track, and baseball), the competition was eventually expanded to nine boys' sports and six girls' sports. Over the entire CC history Ashland was the only school to win a championship in every sport, however Coshocton won the most firsts in one sport with eleven golf championships. For several years a Sportsmanship trophy was awarded, but the league could not agree on the criteria for selecting the winning school so the award was retired in 1967. In 1965 they started a Student Council leadership exchange program. Two students spent several days at another CC school. All seven schools participated.

When Malabar in 1981 and Coshocton in 1983 withdrew from the conference, a replacement merrygoround swirled around the geographic rim of the CC. Mt. Vernon had been courted for several years. Nevertheless Dover and New Philly opposed the long trip over the poor roads to Knox County. In a surprise reversal Malabar requested a return to the conference, but with the stronger Mansfield Senior. The Tuscarawas pair further objected to the three distant trips to the western side of the league. The vote on the Richland County duo marked the death knell for the CC. The five-county rivalry ended with the Spring season of 1987 after their 28th year of competition. Ashland and Madison moved westward to the new the Ohio Heartland Conference. Wooster and New Philadelphia joined the Federal League. Dover aligned themselves with the Senate League.

A partial revival of these old rivalries will form the new Ohio Cardinal Conference in 2003. The members will be: Ashland, Clear Fork, Lexington, Mansfield Madison, Mansfield Senior, Orrville, West Holmes, and Wooster.

Dover, New Philadelphia, and Coshocton now compete in the East Central Ohio League.
(Denny Rubright has a wonderful CC history in his book: A Century of Excitement).

LEAGUE TALKS at the Ashland Country Club in the Spring of 1956 The Athletic Directors are: Gene Coleman from Wooster, George Valentine
from Ashland, and Blaine Dowler of Mansfield Madison. This meeting led
to the Cardinal Athletic Conference April 8,1959.