By Jeff Gallatin
The Bay and Rocky River school districts, road to a new athletic conference continues to have many twists and turns.
The two schools found out last week that their interest in joining the fledgling Greater Cleveland Conference was no longer returned, and that other schools in the conference, which is expected to begin play in two years, did not want the two western Cuyahoga County schools any longer. The two Westshore schools had been formally indicating their interest in the new conference because their current league, the West Shore Conference, will be down to four schools (Vermilion and Elyria Catholic being the other two) by 2015.
Bay Superintendent Clint Keener said the two schools were surprised when they found out last week.
“Representatives of our schools went to a meeting expecting to begin formalizing some of the arrangements for getting the new league set up and working on some proposed bylaws,” Keener said. “Instead we found out that some of the schools in the eastern area of the proposed conference were concerned about having their athletic teams having to travel out to Bay and Rocky River on a regular basis, so they let us know that we really weren’t in their plans anymore.”
Rocky River Superintendent Michael Shoaf said he understands, but is disappointed.
“Having to travel that distance is a legitimate issue because we have heard concerns about it from our people in Rocky River and Bay Village about having to go 45 minutes or more east to many of their schools,” he said. “But we’ve all known about the distances from the beginning, so it’s not like they couldn’t see what could be involved.”
Keener also noted that travel had been an issue for many parents and citizens who attended a Oct. 14 meeting of the Bay Village Board of Education.
“There were concerns expressed at our end and I understand that because I’ve been a coach and athletic director where long trips can be tough,” he said. “But I’ll note that we do play some of the other schools involved on an independent basis.”
When asked about other schools involved, he noted that West Geauga High School plays Bay in soccer.
Officials from West Geauga did not return a request for comment.
Keener said it’s hard to tell how the new Greater Cleveland Conference will end up.
“There hasn’t been anything formal signed up, so it could be different from what was originally discussed or it could end up not happening,” he said.
Shoaf said the decision leaves Rocky River and Bay exploring other options.
“We can check with other schools about possibly joining the West Shore Conference in two years, but a lot of them already seem to be lining up with other conferences or content with staying with where they already are,” he said. “We can also continue to check on other options that could come up, but it’s not going to be an easy process.”
Both superintendents noted that they had reapplied for membership in the Southwestern Conference, which they left about a decade ago to join the West Shore Conference to compete with schools closer to their own size.
Keener said the two districts may have to go with temporary solutions.
“We may have to try going with only four schools in the West Shore Conference for a while,” he said. “Or we may have to play an independent schedule until we can land in a new league. Our preference is still to find a league to be in because an independent travel schedule is just as tough or tougher, and I believe it’s still better for our students to be able to compete and win championships and other league honors. You can’t do that as an independent.”
Shoaf said Rocky River and Bay will continue to work together to try to find a new athletic home.
“It’s logical thing, we’re neighbors and have competed together for many years,” he said. “We want that to continue.”