By Kyle Lovern
Mingo Central High School (W.V.) Athletic Director Dr. Teddy Kinder was himself a three-sport athlete, having played basketball, baseball and track during the 1970s at Matewan High School. In those days, the mountains of southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky were dotted with dozens of small high schools, Matewan included.
But like many other rural areas across the country, infrastructure and roads improved, paving the way for consolidation. With the combining of those smaller schools, many student athletes couldn’t compete for roster spots. In the case of Mingo Central, where four high schools were merged into one, 36 roster spots for basketball were eliminated.
Joe May was a multi-sport star for the Tigers of Matewan. However, after consolidation of the schools, he gave up basketball and concentrated on football. He was a Class AA All-state selection as a utility player his senior season.
“I didn’t play basketball at Mingo Central because I knew I had a much better opportunity to go play football somewhere and be more successful in football,” said May, who just finished his freshman year at Marshall University in Huntington, W.V. “I also knew coming in that the competition at Central would be higher and I needed to be at my very best. So I simply focused on football. The transition was hard but, I feel like me and my classmates buckled down and took it on well. I am blessed I got to go to both Matewan and Mingo Central.”
May had an opportunity to play college football at the NAIA level, but instead chose to focus on his academics.
Another area to see major consolidations is Pike County, Ky., where there were as many as 12 high schools, but now have only five.
“I think one thing was that schools were smaller back then,” Dr. Kinder said. “Many times you had the same coaches that coached multiple sports. So many students played football in the fall, basketball during the winter and baseball or track in the spring.”
Kyle Surber, who played basketball at the old Gilbert High School (W.V.), did not play at Mingo Central the last couple of seasons.
“I would have played basketball if I were still at Gilbert,” Surber said. “I stopped playing at Mingo Central because of the problems they had (with consolidation) and still seem to have.”
However, Surber is now a standout tennis player for the new school and also played on the golf team. Those were two sports they did not offer at his old high school.
“I had the opportunity to play a sport that I really liked at the new school,” he added.