The Detroit Catholic High School League, the largest Catholic League in the country, announced in March its expansion plans from its current 27 schools to 32 with the addition of Toledo’s five Catholic schools. This is the culmination of Director of Athletics for the Detroit Catholic League Vic Michaels’ ten-year quest to welcome the Toledo schools into its organization.
Toledo’s five Catholic schools include two all-girls schools, Notre Dame Academy and St. Ursula Academy; two all-boys schools, St. Francis de Sales, and St. John’s Jesuit; as well as Central Catholic, the only co-ed school. They will begin competing with the Detroit Catholic League in the 2022-23 school year.
Several factors played into this expansion. Most recently was the departure of four public schools from the Three Rivers Athletic Conference, a move made without the Catholic schools. With this departure, the Toledo Catholic schools had to weigh the benefits of staying independent or finding another League.
Travel time was the primary factor to consider. Administrators looked at Cleveland, Columbus, and Detroit as possibilities. Cleveland’s drive time is approximately one hour and 45 minutes from Toledo, Columbus’ drive time is approximately two and a half hours, and Detroit’s drive time is approximately one hour. Out of the 27 Detroit schools already in the League, the longest drive from Toledo is only about one hour and 15 minutes, with the majority being approximately 55 minutes. It became clear that the drive time to Detroit was comparable to previous drive times the Catholic Schools had in the past. Transportation will be a combined effort between the Toledo schools and parents of athletes.
This expansion provides several important benefits, primarily regarding football. With the addition of the three Toledo football teams to the League, scheduling games became far easier and more flexible, much to the relief of those responsible for scheduling them. Instead of needing to schedule five separate non-conference games, there are now only two: one for the opening and one for the closing of the season. This also provides the possibility of not needing to schedule games with Canadian teams.
This move will also strengthen the girls athletic teams, specifically softball. Scheduling is now far easier and more flexible, allowing the League to schedule according to specific sport and school’s strength. This provides the opportunity to create a more balanced playing field for all sports and schools.
Though the public’s perception may be that these schools are rivals, Father Geoff Rose, OSFS and President of St. Francis, is hopeful that this will shift. “I hope this is an opportunity for the people in the community to see us work really well together,” he said, per Mick McCabe of the Detroit Free Press, adding “it’s not the first time we’ve worked well together.”
Despite the obvious benefit of strengthening all 32 school’s athletic teams, another more subtle benefit is collaborating with other schools who share the same values and beliefs. The League also includes non-Catholic associate members schools: Ann Arbor Greenhills, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett, Macomb Lutheran North, and Bloomfield Hills Jewish Academy.