A HISTORY OF THE OHC 1987-2003
The third Lincoln Highway League, the Ohio Heartland Conference, branched westward off the Cardinal Conference, when Dover, New Philly, and Wooster voted against the re-entrance of Mansfield Malabar and the addition of Mansfield Senior to the CC. After the 4-3 split occurred at the Barn Restaurant Sept. 18, 1985, the Ashland and Mansfield Athletic Directors began a search for comparable schools and a new league. They found Lexington and Marion to be favorable partners.
The new league was spearheaded by Athletic Directors: Everett DeVaul (Ashland), Sam Cook (Madison), Laura Evilsizor (Malabar), Richard Henry (Mansfield), Greg Sweptson (Marion), and George Hamlin (Lexington). From the outset these leaders exuded a rapport of cooperation and friendship that propelled the league into a mindset of something more than athletic competition.
During the formative months the meetings rotated between the schools and each AD drafted the operational procedures for the dozen different sports. The All-Conference selections were safeguarded by allowing coaches to only vote for players from the other schools and not for their own players. After 18 months the constitution and the by-laws were completed, their formal acceptance took place at the Mansfield Best Western Inn on June 16, 1986. The very appropriate location was on Route 30 the Lincoln Highway and at Laver Road.
While the old NCOL had debate meets in the 20's and the CC had a Student exchange program in the 1960's, the new OHC developed the Leadership Workshops, the Scholar-Athlete awards, and the Academic Challenge. The new conference became a model which drew inquires from other parts of Ohio.
In the second year the OHC was surprised by the Mansfield consolidation. When the 400 plus Malabar students joined with Mansfield Senior, the new high school was over 1500 students in the upper three grades. Some members feared OHC domination by the league's largest school. All the schools were concerned because the 5-team league meant filling half their schedule with non-league opponents. Nevertheless, in the first year the Tygers won only the two basketball championships of the 17 sports.
The league leadership continually attempted to fulfill their dream of an 8-team league. Early on an expansion attempt with Findlay failed. Some Lorain area feelers were, also, rejected. After Vermilion and Orrville joined the OHC in 1999, a delegation of ADs met with the Wooster athletic staff. They felt Orrville's membership might entice the Generals to enter the conference. However, a 10-10 vote by the coaches ended their hopes. Then in an astounding reversal Wooster met informally with Madison, Ashland, and Orrville to discuss returning to a Lincoln Highway or a Route 30 league. The sequel was that five OHC schools, Wooster, and West Holmes formed the Ohio Cardinal Conference.
Looking backward over the 16-years of the OHC Ev DeVaul said, "We had very friendly relations, and if any problem came up a simple phone call solved it." He, also, proudly pointed out Ashland's 12 straight All-Sports awards. (It must be admired, too, that mid-size Lexington won it five times). Dick Henry, who was the only AD to serve all 16 years in the OHC at Mansfield and Marion, said, "It was one of the best organize and well-thought out conferences in the State."
Finally, as this author interviewed Commissioners
Al Ward and Tom Williams, and the Principals and ADs of the OHC years,
every one pleasingly boosted of the records and friendships of those days.