Last year of Northeast Ohio Conference looming for locals

by Michael Leonard | Sports Editor Published:

What a summer it has been.

Between the World Cup and LeBron James coming home, there has been a lot to talk about.

However, in a few weeks, Ohio high school sports' fall season will be open for business.

Late July remains the calm before the storm, especially for those football players about to experience the rite of passage known as "two-a-days."

In recent years, it seems the only thing constant on the local sports scene has been change.

That change involves the near-constant moving of school districts from one league to another.

There's nothing huge happening this school year -- but starting next summer, get ready to move again, folks.

Following the 2014-15 school year, the grand experiment that is the Northeast Ohio Conference is dead.

The 18-team megaconference that included teams from four counties will be no more.

The NOC's system of three divisions with each sport being assigned in terms of relative strength -- which I liked -- proved to be too unworkable.

That's understandable when a school like Stow-Munroe Falls could have to travel to Mayfield for volleyball, Shaker Heights for football and Brunswick for soccer in any given week.

Travel budgets for high school sports have to be considered.

Beginning with the 2015-16 school year, NOC members will scramble into four different conferences (Garfield Heights will turn independent), including two new ones.

The biggest of the big schools from the NOC -- Mentor, Strongsville, Solon, Shaker Heights, Elyria, Medina and Brunswick -- have resurrected the Greater Cleveland Conference, along with former GCC member Euclid.

Mayfield and Brush are headed to a resurrected Western Reserve Conference, which seems a good fit for them geographically and enrollment-wise. They'll join forces with Kenston, Willoughby South, Eastlake North, Painesville Riverside, Chardon and Madison in the new WRC.

Finally, the three Parma schools are forming a new not-yet-named conference with a couple of refugees from the West Shores Conference.

From a Record Publishing Co. perspective, the big move is our four largest schools -- Twinsburg, Cuyahoga Falls, Stow and Hudson -- are joining Nordonia and Tallmadge in the new, two-division Suburban League.

Even with the loss of Green and, more recently, Cloverleaf, the new-look Suburban League looks like a total beast.

Check out the roster for the National (big school) Conference: Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Falls, Hudson, Nordonia North Royalton, Stow, Twinsburg and Wadsworth.

Every single sport in the National Conference has at least one or two state-level powerhouses in it.

The small-school American Conference is no slouch either: Aurora, Barberton, Copley, Highland, Kent Roosevelt, Revere and Tallmadge.

The American Conference might bit a big smaller, but there's a ton of talent here as well.

By the way, the small-school conference will remain at seven schools at least for now. The league went through its regular process interviewing four schools -- including Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy -- to fill slot No. 16, but no school garnered the 12 votes needed from member schools to include anyone new.

The reason that slot is open is because Cloverleaf decided to leave the Suburban -- and basically switch places with Kent Roosevelt in the Portage Trail Conference.

It's a move that makes sense in terms of enrollment, but geographically, not so much.

For PTC fans wanting to get to Cloverleaf, take I-76 West until the freeway ends and then go about another five miles west on U.S. Route 224.

The school is about 19 miles west of PTC member Norton.

Like the new-look Suburban, the new-look PTC will be a 15-team league, with some of its members switching divisions.

Woodridge has been growing for years and it will join Cloverleaf, Coventry, Field, Norton, Ravenna, Springfield and Streetsboro in the Metro Division starting in the 2015-16 school year.

The Metro still looks pretty solid in most sports.

Crestwood's enrollment numbers, however, are sending it to the County Division comes 2015-16, where it will join James A. Garfield, Mogadore, Rootstown, Southeast, Waterloon and new PTC member Lake Center Christian.

Got all that? Me neither, but we've got a year to get ready.

Email: mleonard@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9442

Facebook: MLeonardRPC

Twitter:@MLeonard_RPC

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