April 18, 2014

Medina
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High school sports: New conference is in works

Chris Sweeney | The Gazette

The Northeast Ohio Conference will look drastically different in 2015.

Commissioner Dan Gerome confirmed to The Gazette on Monday night that seven schools are in the process of leaving the NOC to form their own league — The Greater Cleveland Conference. The schools include: Brunswick, Medina, Elyria, Mentor, Shaker Heights, Solon and Strongsville.

The move is pending approval from each school’s board of education, but Mentor athletic director Jeff Cassella said the schools plan to make an official announcement later in the week. The Greater Cleveland Conference is set to go into effect beginning in the fall of 2015.

“I think it’s a good fit for us, as far as the schools that we will be joining,” Medina athletic director Jeff Harrison said in a phone interview with The Gazette. “I think the schools we are planning to join in the Greater Cleveland Conference have similar offerings to us, which will make scheduling easier. We also have a familiarity with those communities and such.”

Harrison said the league is considering partnering up with other leagues for football crossovers.

“With seven schools it really is not a concern other than football,” Harrison said. “Currently we are in talks with another local league that has an odd number in filling that football schedule.”

Harrison said that Brush and Mayfield were also invited to join the Greater Cleveland Conference, but the two are currently pursuing the newly formed Western Reserve Conference, pending board approval.

The exodus combined with the league losing Cuyahoga Falls, Hudson, North Royalton, Stow and Twinsburg to the Suburban League and the pending departure of Brush and Mayfield leaves the NOC with just four members in the fall of 2015: Garfield Heights, Normandy, Parma and Valley Forge.

Gerome said the four remaining schools plan to hold onto the NOC name and pursue as many as four other schools to join them in a slimmed down conference. He confirmed that the remains of the West Shore Conference — Bay, Elyria Catholic and Rocky River — along with current Lake Erie League members Bedford and Maple Heights are all targets for the new NOC.

Gerome said Bay and Rocky River applied to join the NOC after attending a June meeting.

Elyria Catholic athletic director Bob Thayer said that the school has not really been approached at this point, but he has been in several conversations with the athletic directors of the various Parma schools.

“At this point Elyria Catholic is exploring all of its opportunities,” Thayer said. “We’ll just have to see what comes our way, but certainly the Parma schools would offer some solidity. We’re looking for a good fit for us in terms of competitiveness and travel. The West Shore Conference was a good fit for Elyria Catholic, but it looks like after next year that’s going to be over with. We’re just looking for a good place to land.”

Former athletic director and current Elyria Catholic assistant principal Mike Winsor said the Panthers hope to keep some semblance of the West Shore Conference together and that the school is working with Bay, Rocky River and Vermilion to do so.

The West Shore Conference was depleted by the Southwestern Conference when the SWC took Avon, Lakewood, Midview and North Ridgeville to address this year’s consolidation of Berea-Midpark and the departure of Brecksville to the Suburban League in the fall of 2015.

The LEL will lose Warren G. Harding to the All-American Conference in 2014, leaving it with six members: Bedford, Cleveland Heights, Euclid, Lorain, Maple Heights and Warrensville Heights. Cleveland Heights, Euclid and Lorain are all Division I schools similar to those forming the Greater Cleveland Conference.

Contact Chris Sweeney at (440) 329-7135 or sports@medina-gazette.com.