April 21, 2014

Elyria
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Four teams petition to join Southwestern Conference

Along with death and taxes, we can add high school conference changes as another certainty in life.

For many years, the Southwestern Conference remained a league with little change. The last major conference shake up came during the 2005-06 school year when Fairview, Bay and Rocky River left and were replaced by Brecksville, Berea and Midpark.

The merger between Berea and Midpark next school year created an opening that was filled by Avon, which is joining the conference for the 2015-16 school year. It looks as though the Eagles could have some WSC running mates joining them that year.

According to Avon Lake Superintendent Bob Scott, four West Shore Conference schools recently petitioned to join the SWC. Those schools were Midview, Lakewood, North Ridgeville and former SWC member Rocky River.

It is expected that two of the four schools that applied will be accepted, but all four could possibly find a spot. There is no confirmation what the SWC superintendents recommended at their emergency meeting called last week.

“We will look at anyone who applies and see if it makes us a better conference, not only for athletics, but for all aspects of academics,” Scott said. “The final vote on accepting any new members to the conference will be done by the principals.”

The SWC principals are scheduled to meet March 19 to finalize the selection of the new conference members.

Schools are normally required to give two years notice when leaving a conference, so the two schools leaving the West Shore Conference could become SWC members in 2015-16, creating a new 10-team league.

As with most changes in high school sports, football seems to be the main focus on athletics when discussions arise about new conference affiliations.

The new 10-school SWC could play a nine-game football conference schedule, leaving only one week for non-conference play. Unless, of course, more changes come in the two school years before the new schools join the SWC.

The 10-team football league had a working model in western Ohio in the Midwest Athletic Conference, with football powers Coldwater, Delphos St. John, Marion Local and St. Henry among the 11-team league. New Knoxville is a non-football school in the conference.

The MAC started with a nine-game conference schedule, but played an eight-game conference schedule last year. A seven, eight or nine-game schedule could all be on the table in football for the revamped SWC.

Since it looks as though two teams will be leaving and two others have expressed interest in finding a new home, the obvious question is what happens to the West Shore Conference?

The departure of the two schools leaves Bay, Elyria Catholic and the two schools not selected looking for conferences, with Vermilion also slated to leave after this year. The Sailors originally left the WSC for the Northern Ohio League, but those plans have since been scrapped, leaving Vermilion as an independent.

The coming WSC changes seem to re-open the door for the Sailors to return to the conference.

“We are aware that teams have petitioned the SWC for admittance,” Elyria Catholic athletic director Mike Wisnor said. “When there is an official response from the Southwestern Conference, then the West Shore Conference will act accordingly.

“We should have an official answer to teams leaving sometime around March 19th and we have an athletic directors meeting scheduled for the 26th. I’m sure that will be the topic of conversation and all options will be on the table.”

One possible scenario for the West Shore would be a merger with the Patriot Athletic Conference, creating an 18-team league similar to the Northeast Ohio Conference that currently encompasses eastern and southern Cleveland suburbs.

Schools could be divided into three six-team divisions based on enrollment and crossover games, similar to what the PAC does now, which would allow teams to fill out their conference schedule while leaving flexibility for non-conference scheduling based on their individual school needs.

Contact James Brady at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.