The ongoing discussions among several Washington Catholic Athletic Conference school officials about possibly forming a new co-educational athletic league that would exclude all-boys powerhouses DeMatha and Gonzaga have ended for now, sources said yesterday.
School officials from at least four co-educational conference schools had planned to discuss disbanding the WCAC at a meeting yesterday. However, when word of the controversial discussions were made public in last Thursday's editions of The Washington Post, at least one school backed out of the meeting, sources said, and it was called off altogether the following day.
"There was never a unanimous decision about which direction the league wanted to go," said a co-educational school president who declined to be named for this report. "Once word got out, there were some schools which got negative sentiments from alumni who felt that if we were going to compete for a championship in a league of Catholic schools, that you have to play the best. So for right now, [reorganizing the conference] is a dead issue."
Last week, one official from a co-educational WCAC school acknowledged that preliminary talks about forming a new league had taken place among several school presidents, who felt their teams were unable to compete with Gonzaga and DeMatha in many boys' sports partly because of differences in enrollment. DeMatha has 920 boys and Gonzaga 890; they are the only all-boys schools in the conference, and several WCAC co-educational schools have fewer than half as many boys. Both schools have dominated boys sports, most notably football, where they have combined to win 11 of the past 12 titles.
But talk of forming a new league and breaking up the 11-member WCAC, one of the country's most recognized athletic leagues, failed to garner much support. According to sources, more than half of the schools' leaders were opposed to the idea, as were most coaches and athletic directors.
"First of all, I can't believe anyone could think about breaking up a league that has so much tradition and is so respected in the area and around the country," DeMatha football coach Bill McGregor said. "It was just inconceivable."
DeMatha Principal Dan McMahon and Gonzaga Headmaster Michael Pakenham said last week they were not included in the discussions and were opposed to any restructuring of the conference.
"I'm delighted the league is going to stay together," McMahon said. "It's the best thing for all of us. . . . We're really proud to be members of the WCAC."
School officials said they are not as concerned about the competitive balance in girls' sports.
"Bishop McNamara is interested in keeping the WCAC intact and strengthening the conference," McNarama Principal Marco Clark said. "Our students, coaches and alumni enjoy the tradition and rivalries between the schools. It's important because the schools share a common faith and mission."
Paul VI Catholic Principal Philip Robey said: "Paul VI absolutely supports the WCAC. It's a good league. There are some issues, and with so many schools involved, there are always going to be issues. [But] I don't want to see any school left out."