By Jeff Gallatin
School officials are continuing their efforts to find a new home for their athletic teams by pursuing a membership in the proposed new Greater Cleveland Athletic Conference.
District Superintendent Clint Keener told a group of about 40 parents and residents at the Oct. 14 school board meeting that after careful study by the district administration and school board, continuing to pursue a membership in the new conference is a better alternative than playing an independent schedule with no conference affiliation. Keener said because Bay’s current league, the West Shore Conference, is steadily losing members, staying in it is not an alternative. He said both Bay and Rocky River have been rebuffed in their efforts to rejoin the Southwestern Conference (SWC), which they left about a decade ago.
“All except four remaining West Shore Conference teams (Bay Village, Rocky River, Elyria Catholic and Vermilion) have indicated they will be leaving the conference as of 2015,” Keener said. “Although the remaining four WSC members have attempted to lure new members for many months, there is no interest from other districts.
“Neither Bay Village nor Rocky River have invitations from any
conference other than the GCC. Our applications to the Southwestern Conference have been declined, and no other nearby conferences are interested in expanding.”
Many of the residents questioned the amount of travel involved with the new conference, but Keener said an independent schedule would involve even more travel and that the district has limited options.
“We have two alternatives: 1) become independent, or 2) join the new GCC,” he said. “The core of the proposed GCC will include Bay Village, Rocky River and a number of districts withdrawn from the Chagrin Valley Conference (Orange, Beachwood, Chagrin Falls, Wickliffe, etc.). These schools represent a great fit for us in terms of academic excellence and fine athletic facilities. While travel in the GCC will increase as compared to our current conference, the leadership of our district concludes that the benefits to our students of being part of a strong athletic conference outweigh the additional travel time.”
Other parents expressed concern about the effect on students’ ability to study, and one man contended the problem has developed because of continuing major problems with the football program. Keener said the student-athletes usually adjust and find ways to study, and also told the one resident he would discuss the football program with him.
Keener said he would be confirming his interest in the new league with otther officials and then followed up the meeting with a letter to the community.
“There would be significant challenges in creating a full schedule of independent games,” he said in the letter. “With few independent districts around us, the schedule could result in even more travel time. In addition, games cancelled due to weather would likely not be re-scheduled as other schools, most associated with a conference, would always give priority to re-scheduling conference games. Finally, while we currently see a good number of our teams and students winning conference-level championships and awards, such an opportunity would no longer exist for our students without being part of a conference.
“The principals and athletic administrators of the proposed GCC are meeting to develop a constitution and by-laws to govern the league. It is anticipated that the conference could include 12 to 14 members. A few districts are making their final decision, and we will announce the final member list when available.”