The Mid Penn Conference finally found football nirvana this fall -- four divisions of eight teams each that were as geographically and competitively balanced as possible -- and athletic directors all over the league could breathe a sigh of relief.
That satisfaction didn't last even a week into 2013.
On Monday, Gettysburg's school board approved a measure that allowed the school to apply for admission to the York-Adams League. The York-Adams League is expected to vote this Monday on that application and it's an almost certainty that it will go through. If so, Gettysburg will become a York-Adams member starting in the 2014-15 season.
Gettysburg's board had voted twice previously to remain in the Mid Penn. This time, the vote went the other way, by a 7-0 count, and the stated reason was to reduce travel costs associated with middle school contests.
For Mid Penn athletic directors, especially the ones in the Colonial Division, of which Gettysburg and four area schools -- James Buchanan, Greencastle-Antrim, Shippensburg and Waynesboro -- are currently members, scheduling suddenly got more difficult.
With an eight-team division, ADs need to fill the first three weeks of the football season with non-league games, and the final seven weeks are division games. When Gettysburg leaves, the Colonial teams will have an open date somewhere in the middle of the season, and it's proven to be difficult to fill that open date because other leagues are playing league games then, too.
Mid Penn executive director Fred Isopi said, "This will mess things up. We'll have to deal with going back to using a floating bye week. We've been here before and we have a year or so to figure it out. Maybe if we luck out, York will now have an odd number in a division, too, and maybe we could match those dates up."
James Buchanan athletic director Larry Strawoet said, "This was a big surprise. We just found out about it and it looks like they really moved swiftly. The Mid Penn seemed like it was settling down, and now this. You just wish you could get through more than one two-year (scheduling) cycle without the divisions having to be reshaped."
Greencastle-Antrim AD Vicki Ritchey was on the MPC's realignment committee that came up with what appeared to be the league's most workable division alignment in many years, thanks to the addition of Mifflin County and State College. Now it's back to the drawing board.
"The committee spent a lot of time and effort trying to balance the divisions based on enrollment and travel," Ritchey said. "Gettysburg seemed like a good fit into our division. The shame is, everybody had those three weeks to schedule rivalry games and then you didn't have to worry about finding an in-season opponent."
Isopi said he is not aware of any other schools interested in joining the Mid Penn, or any other schools looking to leave. But he did say that the West Shore School District, which includes Cedar Cliff and Red Land, almost annually has looked into merging those two high schools into one.
Football, of course, is not the only sport affected.
For Colonial schools, the loss of Gettysburg will have far-reaching issues.
Ritchey said, "Our division, in a lot of sports, already has fewer teams than other divisions (because of the geography). We already get fewer league games, so we have more non-league dates to schedule. Plus, Gettysburg was a very competitive team in most sports and you hate to lose that."
With the most recent realignment, Boiling Springs replaced Northern in most sports in the Colonial. To balance the numbers, Northern may have to be put back in the Colonial, and that will not be Northern's first choice because of the geography.
"You look back years ago at the old Blue Mountain League and you felt like you were finally re-establishing some of those rivalries again," Strawoet said. "Now we'll be redoing it again."