By DOUG DONNELLY
The Tri-County Conference, pending a vote of its members’ boards of education, will invite Erie Mason to join the conference to compete in all sports for the 2020-21 school year at the earliest.
The league’s athletic directors met this week and voted to recommend to its own school boards that Erie Mason be invited into the league as its eighth member. Whitmore Lake school officials announced in November it was leaving the TCC at the close of the current school year.
“We felt Erie Mason was the best fit as far as location and the sports they offer that line up with the TCC,” said Madison Athletic Director Kris Isom. “I am hopeful that the TCC boards of education support the addition of Erie Mason for the 2020-21 school year.”
Mason has been a member of the Lenawee County Athletic Association since the late 1980s. It’s current high school enrollment is 373, which would make it the second-largest member of the TCC. Erie Mason is the second-smallest LCAA school, behind Blissfield and ahead of Hudson.
Kelly Trainor, Erie Mason’s athletic director, said that Mason is excited about the prospect of joining the TCC.
“There’s always been this buzz about the TCC and where Erie Mason fits,” she said. “It’s been something that our coaches have talked about for years.”
Trainor cited future enrollment projections and geography as reasons that the Eagles applied to join the TCC.
“We’ve been part of the Lenawee County Athletic Association for 30 years,” she said. “We have been extremely loyal. There is a lot of history with us there – it’s been our identity. But, for our future athletes, we have to plan for what our future is going to look like.”
Geographically, Trainor said Erie Mason now has four trips of an hour or more. In the TCC, the longest trip would be to Morenci, which is about 50 miles one way.
“This will significantly cut down on travel (costs),” she said.
Mason has long scheduled TCC schools for non-conference opponents across its athletics and are often invited to tournaments and invitationals in a variety of sports.
Trainor said the idea is that Erie Mason would be invited to join the TCC for the 2020-21 school year, but there could be a catch to that happening. The LCAA bylaws say that after a school gives notice that it intends to leave the league, they are committed to remain with the league for two years. She expects that once the school boards approve the move, there will be a discussion with the LCAA members.
The TCC invited schools to submit applications to join the league after Whitmore Lake announced its withdrawal to join the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference.
If ultimately approved, the TCC would be Erie Mason’s fifth all-time conference. They were a member of the Lakeshore Conference from 1965 to 1966, the River Raisin Conference from 1967 to 1973, the Michigan-Ohio Border Conference from 1973 to 1980 and the LCAA since 1988. Several current TCC schools were members of the River Raisin Conference with Erie Mason.
The Tri-County Conference was formed in 1973. Britton, Deerfield, Madison, Summerfield, Ann Arbor St. Thomas and Whitmore Lake joined together to create the league. Whiteford and Sand Creek joined the TCC for the 1975-76 school year, which was the last for St. Thomas. Morenci joined the TCC in 1981 and Clinton in 2007. Britton and Deerfield were a co-op program in several sports before becoming Britton Deerfield High School in 2011.