The Aurora Board of Education made it official Sept. 23 -- the district will join the Suburban League starting in the 2015-16 school year.
The Suburban League has been around since 1949. During most of that time, the league has functioned as a one-division, eight-team league. But that is about to change.
Current members of the league are Cloverleaf, Copley, Highland, Nordonia, Revere, Tallmadge, Wadsworth and Green, but the latter is pulling out to join the Canton area Federal League.
Under the proposed setup, 16 schools will be divided into two, eight-team divisions according to enrollment.
Aurora will be in the small school division with Barberton, Cloverleaf, Copley, Highland, Kent Roosevelt, Revere, Tallmadge. The two other new members have also confirmed they will join.
The large school division will be composed of Cuyahoga Falls, North Royalton, Nordonia, Hudson, Stow-Munroe Falls, Twinsburg and Wadsworth, and possibly Brecksville-Broadview Heights. The latter is the only school which hadn't confirmed its intentions to join as of Sept. 23.
"Having considered the best interests of the district, the athletic director and superintendent have determined that membership in the Suburban League offers the local schools excellent opportunities to develop relationships with other outstanding school districts in both athletic and academic programs," said the Aurora School Board's resolution to join the league.
"The league is recognized as one of the premier conferences in the state with its rich tradition, support and emphasis on the total student/athlete in academics, athletics and the arts."
"AFTER ACTIONS prompted by members of the Chagrin Valley Conference, which decided to change their affiliation and create a new league -- thus removing Aurora and Kenston -- Aurora has been active in having discussions with neighboring schools to try to create a new league and to talk with presently established leagues like the Suburban," said Superintendent Russ Bennett.
"The Suburban is a good fit for Aurora," he added, "with schools having a similar makeup and sharing the same ideals in academics, the arts and athletics. The league also matches up our middle school programming so travel can be minimized.
"Our middle school teams will cross over divisions and play schools in close proximity so we can get those students home earlier from competitions since all contests are on weekdays.
"It is our hope that our affiliation will begin in the fall of 2015 pending details in regard to previous contracts and commitments."
Board of Education president Gerald Kohanski added, "We're excited to begin our new athletic and academic relationships with the Suburban League partners. Bennett and athletic director Paul Powers have done an outstanding job exploring all the possible avenues and establishing an excellent new relationship."
Meanwhile, in a joint news release Sept. 17, the Twinsburg, Stow-Munroe Falls, Hudson and Cuyahoga Falls districts announced they will leave the Northeast Ohio Conference to join the Suburban League.
The release was sent out by Hudson superintendent Phillip Herman, Stow superintendent Dr. Russ Jones, Falls superintendent Dr. Todd Nichols and Twinsburg superintendent Kathi Powers.
According to the news release, "The Suburban League large division schools have played each other in competition in years past. This move allows us to revive exciting rivalries and build great relationships in this newly expanded league.
"These relationships will also help foster healthy competition for our students both in the classroom and on the field. The close proximity of these schools will allow our fans, teams and band to cut down on travel time and expenses, and is in the best interest of our students."
SUBURBAN League commissioner Keith Walker said the new-look league could name the two divisions the American and National conferences.
The news release from the four larger schools stated the newly reconfigured league might be known as the Suburban Athletic Conference, but Walker said no discussions have been held on renaming the league.
Walker said he hoped to make a formal announcement about the new-look league "sometime this week."
"We have thoroughly enjoyed the Portage Trail Conference and have a tremendous amount of respect for that conference, the schools in it and the athletic competitiveness offered to us," said Kent assistant superintendent Thomas Larkin about leaving the PTC.
"But the main reason we were interested is because the schools [in the Suburban League] are similar in enrollment and demographics. It gives us an opportunity to compete athletically with schools similar to our size."
Kent athletic director Mark Pfaff said the Suburban is a "good fit for our athletic programs based on the student enrollment numbers of the other schools in the small school division."
Kent Roosevelt currently has a variety of sports programs that operate independently outside the PTC, including swimming, diving, girls golf, hockey and field hockey, which has precluded those teams from competing for league titles.
Other area athletic directors reached by Record Publishing Co. are happy with the move, including Twinsburg's Mark Maslona, Hudson's Ray Ebersole , Stow's Cyle Feldman and Cuyahoga Falls' Tom DiFrancesco.
Record-Courier reporter Jeremy Nobile contributed to this story.
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