After months of projections and alterations, the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference - a 14-team, two-division merger of Harford and Cecil county schools - will begin in all sports next year.
At a meeting on Monday at Harford Tech, attended by athletic directors from the two counties' 14 schools, Harford coordinator of athletics Forest Wiest and Cecil coordinator Sue Strobel discussed the future of the league, which is being tested this winter in boys and girls basketball and this spring in baseball and softball.
"It's easy to just write this down on paper," said Wiest. "We still have a lot of work to do, but I think it is going to be good for kids and good for coaches. When you have competitive games, kids are going to benefit more."
League scheduling for next fall has been completed, and Wiest said that a conference commissioner should be in place by July 1.
A Cecil and Harford merger was proposed 10 years ago and met with strong opposition, but the idea was revisited two years ago in an effort to ease scheduling problems -new schools in other counties have made finding nonconference games difficult - and add competitive balance.
In girls and boys basketball this winter, the seven teams deemed strongest are in one division (Chesapeake) and the other seven play in another (Susquehanna). The two-division format appears to be achieving its purpose. The alignment is different for each sport.
The Harford Tech boys, who haven't had much success against county teams in the past, are undefeated in the Susquehanna Division, while girls teams like Edgewood, Harford Tech and Joppatowne, which are not traditional powers, are vying for a division title.
"The league definitely looks out for the little guys," said North Harford athletic director Fran Mathews.
Still, some coaches haven't embraced the change, citing longer bus rides, unknown competition and a break with tradition.
"Like anything else, [coaches] are apprehensive," said C. Milton Wright athletic director Jim McNicholas. "They're not sure about the competition, but they are mostly willing to accept the change."
Boys volleyball, swimming, boys and girls lacrosse and cheerleading will not be affected because Cecil County doesn't have those varsity programs, though Wiest predicted that the two counties will offer all the same sports in the future.