Manhattan High will not be joining the Sunflower League following a vote by league principals to not extend a bid to the school.
The decision comes just over a week after MHS principal Michael Dorst and athletics director Mike Marsh made a presentation to the principals seeking admittance into the 14-school league. The Sunflower League mostly is comprised of schools in the Kansas City area, as well as two schools in Lawrence.
“We received communication back from the president of the Sunflower League (Tuesday),” Dorst said. “After discussion, their league principals have voted not to extend an offer to Manhattan High School to join the Sunflower League. We are not aware of the vote (tally).”
Manhattan was trying to join the league to escape the possibility of having to schedule seasons with only five other schools in the Centennial League. The league’s limited number of schools in the 2022-23 school year stems from the exit of Topeka West and Seaman to the United Kansas Conference and Highland Park heading to the Kansas City-Atchison League.
Shawnee Heights left the Centennial League in 2017.
Marsh and Dorst noted in previous discussions with The Mercury that the question of travel time came up in their presentation. MHS would have to travel at least an hour and a half any time it went on the road. The same can be said for any of the Sunflower League schools that visited Manhattan.
The travel time appeared to be the biggest hurdle for Manhattan’s admittance. Dorst and Marsh did not say if they were given any reason for the denial during their Tuesday call with the Sunflower League.
The decision means that for now, Manhattan High will look to remain in the Centennial League. When asked last week about what would happen if Manhattan’s pitch was rejected, Dorst said the school would go back to the drawing board with the league.
“If we continue to be in the Centennial League in the 2022-23 school year, the plan would be to solidify our schedules and to go forward with finding those games and potentially adding teams in the Centennial League,” Dorst said last week.
Dorst confirmed those plans Wednesday.
“At this point, we are going forward with our commitment to the Centennial League and the five other schools along with Manhattan that are part of the Centennial League for the 2022-23 school year,” Dorst said.
That option also involves trying to prevent more Centennial League schools from leaving. The six-school makeup of the Centennial League presents a challenge for scheduling, as MHS now will need to search for more teams to fill open spots. Losing more schools would add another layer of problems to the league.
This process could make Manhattan’s travel times even longer than they would have been had the school been accepted into the Sunflower League.
“To find other teams of similar caliber, those are now potentially beyond the two hour time of traveling to the Sunflower League,” Dorst said last week. “We’re looking at two, three and maybe even four hours away. Knowing the composition of the Centennial League and the number of schools in it, we are already faced with, in the 2022-23 school year, we’re already facing well outside the two-hour time frame.”