CLARION — Not only is the Clarion Area, Clarion-Limestone and North Clarion football cooperative likely to generate a new team of 40 to 50 members, add in a band that will include 40-45 participants for each unit, and a cheerleading squad of 20 (17 C-L and three from Clarion Area) – not to mention all the parents and family members – and the area will have one of the largest football events in the region.
“We are absolutely pleased with the progress,” Clarion Area Superintendent Joe Carrico said. “It’s been long, and the progress has sometimes been slow, considering we have about a dozen people on the committee. Remember, this is an AA program; it is not a big school program, but it is going to have big school ramifications.”
C-L School Board President Molly Greenawalt agreed with Carrico.
“It’s a very healthy committee working on this,” Greenawalt said. “We obviously worked hard to get to this point, some of the hard questions – do we want even to tackle it? – but we all feel like the positive progress has been just wonderful.”
Coaches have been hired and a tentative schedule has been developed, but a new identity (that means a new name, colors and mascot) still needs to be developed. The new identity will not be launched until the start of the 2020 season so that students and community can be involved in selecting a new look. Selection of a new mascot will be a student-led competition.
Carrico said the co-op is trying to be as equitable as possible to the point where they are splitting up the junior high games, the junior varsity games and the varsity games. There’s going to be a homecoming game at each field and a senior night for all seniors at Clarion University Memorial Stadium. Organizers are trying to get a couple of JV games and some junior high games at Clarion-Limestone. As part of the five-year agreement, three games will be played at Clarion-Limestone in 2020 and two will be played at Clarion. Clarion’s home field is Clarion University’s Memorial Stadium.
“Having a JV team is really a bonus,” Greenawalt said. “When we first went into discussions we really didn’t know what might come of that. The idea that we can actually field a JV team is a benefit. It allows more training and experience before they get in the varsity. I’m also really excited about Senior Night, and I think it will be a big transition night for the entire Clarion community.”
The committee includes superintendents Amy Glasl and Joe Carrico, principals John Kimmel and Mel Aaron, athletic directors Nancy Mills, Brandon Bell and Bonnie Wolbert, board members Dave Estadt, Hugh Henry, Mike Meals and Molly Greenawalt, and coaches Larry Wiser and Dave Eggleton.
The committee has held seven meetings since November, meeting for 90 minutes to two hours each time.
“I don’t think it should be lost about how important these are as community events,” Carrico said. “They truly become part of a community’s fabric. You’ve got the most amount of kids involved, you’ve got bands, cheerleaders, football teams, parents, coaches – the schools get fired up about it, so it becomes part of the fabric. That’s not lost on anybody on the committee, how vitally important these programs are. It matters, and that’s why this is taking so much time, and we’re deliberate.
“Are we going to get everything right? Of course not. Of the 25 decisions we’ve already made with 50 to go, not all of those decisions are going to be unanimous and not all of them are going to be popular. But they will be made with careful attention. They will be made with maximum input from as many people as possible, starting with our committee. The committee is very reflective of the community – board members, superintendents, coaches, athletic directors and principals – so we’ve tried to cover every possible base.”
C-L also has a dance team that may be a possible part of the co-op experience, and the committee is planning to talk to its director, Tina Bennett.
Clarion’s cheerleading squad has been dramatically diminished, and that’s another hidden opportunity for students by trying to make this a complete emersion process. Last year only three students participated.
So far, the co-op agreement doesn’t cover the C-L competitive cheer team and only includes the cheerleading at games. The PIAA recognizes cheerleading as a competitive sport and C-L now participates in the competitive events. Clarion co-op participation may be later entertained if there is interest from Clarion students.
“I’m excited,” Carrico said. “The bands have already had a meeting with pizza, and the kids and advisors have already come up with a new fight song. I can’t say what it is, but you’ll know it when you hear it. The kids felt like they should come up with a new one.
“Discussions with the bands brought out that they have individual competitions they attend and have to march under their own uniforms and want to maintain their own identity for those events. This year they are going to wear their own uniforms and play together, and the following year we’re going to look at some type of color scheme with windbreakers and hats and khaki pants for the kids to wear to the football games. They would still maintain their own identity for competitions. Practices will get worked out, but now it looks like one day a week for this year. They’ll iron out the wrinkles this year and see where they have to go next year.”
The last committee meeting looked at the three things that will need community involvement: team color schemes, mascot and names.
The team will play under the Clarion Bobcat name this year. PIAA requires a school to “sponsor” a program.
“We sponsor wrestling,” Carico said. “C-L sponsors one of the soccer programs and Clarion sponsors the other. Under the football thing, Clarion is the primary sponsor of the football program. If you look at the Union/A-C Valley team, Union is the primary sponsor, so it is a Union program, but they went for that pure down the middle thing. They wear uniforms and helmets that reflect a combination of their names and mascots as the Falcon Knights. Our committee decided to select a new identity for us.”
The new school colors, name and mascot will be on display before the start of the 2020 season to involve everyone for the selection. The committee is trying to come up with a path that is most productive to create a new identity.
Color schemes have to be in place to order uniforms next November. “Do it right, don’t do it fast” was the guiding principle in selecting a new color scheme. C-L’s colors are navy blue and Vegas gold, and Clarion’s are orange and black. Three principal schematics will be presented, and students and the community will vote.
A student-led contest will pick the new mascot. The parameters are that the mascot name has to be relevant to central Clarion County and has to be historically relevant. Students will have to do some homework and research, prepare a paper and present why they should select it as a mascot.
“I want to add to what Joe said about finding a new identity,” Greenawalt said. “When we began talks, one of the most emotional issues in the community was are you going to be a Bobcat or are you going to be a Lion? That wasn’t a major focus of the committee, but it was an easy conversation when it was suggested to look at a new identity. A historic rivalry still exists, but it was pretty easy to recognize that we wanted to preserve those histories and work with a new identity. The idea moved quickly through that process, but I know there has been some negativity about playing this year as Bobcats. There’s a fear that Clarion will just absorb us. We’re committed to a new name and excited about it. People are becoming more and more excited about new uniforms and what we’re going to be.”
Greenawalt also explained the five-year agreement.
“One of the reasons we looked at the five-year was with all the work that we put into this, we would like to see a long-term commitment,” she said. “I think some of us recognize if we have a successful first year, for instance, we will get more students coming out to play because they’re going to feel safer and there’s going to be more individual opportunity to excel in offense or defense instead of playing both and being tired of a position or hurt.
“Safety is a significant factor that we considered,” she said. “I know that I recognize we could probably end up with enough kids to sponsor a Clarion-Limestone team as we see success with our co-op, but what the committee doesn’t want to happen is for that to be any kind of false hope that we could then again sustain individual teams.
“That’s not a reality anymore for us. Maybe for a year or two, we would have enough, but I think we are in a spot where the reality is that if our teams got higher numbers and even if we get a lot out, if we were separated again, those numbers would dwindle just like they have over the years. That’s why we looked long-term to enforce the idea that we’re into this together.”