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High school sports: Euclid to join Greater Cleveland Conference in 2015-16 – News

Charlie Smialeks words quicken and the pitch of his voice increases when reminiscing about the days Euclid and Mentor went head-to-head in the Greater Cleveland Conference.
As a member of the Euclid football team in the early 1990s, Smialek has special memories of those Euclid-Mentor conference games.
Starting in 2015, the student-athletes of Euclid will know what their principal means.
Euclid has been named the eighth member of the new-look GCC, which will begin play in the 2015-16 school year. The Euclid board of education on April 14 unanimously approved a resolution for the Panthers to join the conference.
The schools had been in negotiations since November, a Euclid school official said.
Were really excited about it, Smialek said. Obviously its a really competitive league. We think the other schools in the league will be top-notch competition for our kids.
Euclid joins Mentor, Solon, Shaker Heights, Strongsville, Elyria, Medina and Brunswick in the new GCC. Aside from Euclid, which comes to the GCC from the Lake Erie League, the other seven schools are current members of the Northeast Ohio Conference.
The GCC will be split into two divisions, the east and west.
In a lot of ways, its like coming home, Smialek said. The Greater Cleveland Conference was a league in which we competed very well in the 80s and 90s. Some of the schools are different, but its exciting to be competing with some of those same schools.
When the seven schools announced their intention to depart the NOC and form the new GCC, the door remained open for an eighth school to balance out scheduling.
Mentor athletic director Jeff Cassella said there was some solid interest from many schools in light of all the recent conference reshuffling. But Euclids size and athletic tradition were separating factors, he said.
I think athletically, (the GCC) is a whos who of Greater Cleveland athletics, Cassella said. When you look at it football, boys basketball, baseball, track I dont think theres a weak link in the conference.
The LEL has faced its share of changes over the years, including Mentors departure and the addition and subtraction of Warren Harding in the same narrow frame of time.
Smialek said Euclid will miss having league rivalries with teams such as Shaw and Cleveland Heights, but will still try to schedule those schools as nonconference games.
The decision to push hard for entry into the GCC was one to not be taken lightly.
The reality is, the Lake Erie League continues to suffer losses in membership, Smialek said. It seems like everybody was looking (to move). We had to be proactive or be left in a league with three or four schools.
Count Euclid football coach Tom Gibbons among those giving the thumbs-up of approval on the move. Gibbons said the Panthers have played a number of the new GCC schools in the past. The only difference now will be counting those games in a league race.
It wont be easy, but in the long run, itll be good, Gibbons said. I think there will be multiple playoff teams from the conference. Week in and week out, the games will be very, very competitive.
Cassella, too, is looking forward to league clashes with Euclid, just like the Cardinals had in the old GCC and in the LEL.
Were very excited to have them back, Cassella said. Weve had a long-standing rivalry with them. Its exciting to have them back.
Cassella also said the GCC has likely closed the book on any further expansion.
We are very comfortable with eight, he said. I dont think well be expanding any time soon.

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