| A History of the North
Central Ohio League
The Pre-Game Show
When you read the newspapers (1919) of the six cities of the NCO, the league had an insignificant start. The only league that they wrote about was The League of Nations. But, of that first Mansfield meeting, only one paper, the Ashland Times-Gazette announced the new high school sports affiliation in football and basketball. The same can be said of the second league meeting in Marion. It was overlooked, too. Probably none of the eight schools that joined the NCO realized the uniqueness of their league.
As you search the state in 1919 for a dual football-basketball conference, one is hard pressed to find any of what is called a "section" league outside of the metropolitan city leagues. The Columbus City League had championships in football in 1899, and in basketball 1900. The 4-team Cleveland Public School Athletic League was before that time. By 1919 all of the seven largest Ohio cities were running a championship. How many were league championships is not clear.
What became known as the Little Big Seven (Lorain, Elyria, Oberlin, Sandusky, Norwalk, Bellevue, and Fremont) started in 1911, as a football league. When they had a basketball schedule, it was called the Northern Ohio Scholastic League. A short-lived Trolley League started in 1919 and connected Fostoria, Tiffin, Findlay, BG, and Lima. During the 20's numerous county leagues were organized. The OHSAA recognizes the Northwest Ohio Athletic League (Archbold area) as the longest continuous league in Ohio. It started in 1926 with six teams in football and basketball. According to Bob Curry, retired Youngstown Vindicator sports writer, the Tri-County League (Mahoning, Columbiana, & Stark) which started in 1929, is the longest continuous football, basketball, and track league in Ohio.
This author has contacted Ohio reference librarians
and high schools athletic departments in different corners of the State
to determine the "first football-basketball league outside of the
major cities," He has also called high school sports historians and
posed the question. The subject has been posted on JJ's Sports Huddle.
The OHSAA doesn't know for sure. The obvious motive is: "was the
North Central Ohio League 1919-1920 the first football & basketball
"section" conference outside of the major cities in Ohio high
school sports history?" The answer may be elusive. But when you read
the wire service sports news of those times, the NCO is the only mentioned
outside of the big cities.