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Five Toledo high schools join Detroit-based Catholic High School League

Beginning with the 2023-24 fall high school sports season, the Irish, Eagles, Knights, Titans and Arrows will compete in the largest Catholic sports league in the US

TOLEDO, Ohio — A southeast Michigan high school sports league will soon be gaining five schools from Toledo.

Central Catholic, Notre Dame Academy, St. Francis, St. John’s and St. Ursula officially will join 27 other private high schools in the Catholic High School League starting with the fall sports season in 2023-24.

The Detroit-based CHSL was formed in 1926. With the addition of the five Toledo schools into the league, 32 schools will participate in the CHSL beginning in 2023-24.

When the NLL expanded and Clay, Findlay, Fremont Ross and Whitmer decided to leave the TRAC, that left the private schools in our area searching for a new home. They had talks with leagues from around the state of Ohio but ultimately decided on playing in the Catholic High School League.

“There is a tinge of sadness there,” President of St. Francis, Father Geoff Rose, said. “This is exciting, it’s historic. This is the largest Catholic league, it’s the oldest Catholic league. That’s exciting. It isn’t that we went to find this opportunity, this opportunity presented itself to us.”

“Everyone assumes that the biggest influence in this was football, but the truth is, it’s equally difficult to find sub-varsity softball games, sub-varsity boys basketball games,” Vic Michaels, director of the CHSL, said. “We have the ability to create schedules for the good and not-so-good teams.

One of the first things people worry about is travel. Having to drive an hour-plus to play a league game isn’t ideal. But it was never really a sticking point in the discussions.

“We were already traveling to Fremont, Findlay and Lima,” Central Catholic athletic director and football coach Greg Dempsey said. “The increase in travel is not as much as people think when you start looking at the mileage and things like that.”

There will be some quirks. 

For example, sports like girls soccer are played in the spring in Michigan but are played in the fall in Ohio. Central Catholic, Notre Dame and Saint Ursula are still working out details there. 

On top of that, there are different rules in different states. In the Detroit Catholic league for baseball and softball, they only have 3-balls and 2-strikes as opposed to a traditional 4-balls and 3-strikes. The rule is aimed to save pitching and play doubleheaders.

“When we’re in Michigan, we’ll go by those rules,” St. John’s athletic director Bob Ronai said. “When they come to Ohio, they have to abide by the rules that we play by. There are some differences, but I think it’s going to be unique.”

“As we got more into the Catholic league and saw everything in their history, their tradition, what they do year-round, there are a lot of great things that they do,” said Dempsey. “People are going to learn as we go. They’re pretty special for every sport that they offer for the whole school year.”

“I am grateful that any time a potential problem was raised, we found a solution between us,” Rose said. “Never did the Catholic league say ‘take it or leave it’ – it was ‘okay let us look at that’ and they had so many creative solutions. That felt awesome and refreshing.”


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