Change has been a constant with local high school sports leagues for much of the last two decades.

In an environment of constant switching, mega-leagues and not much inter-school loyalty, the Suburban League has been a model of stability. It's been around since 1949.

Throughout its life, the league has been a one-division conference. Since 1984 when Wadsworth first joined, it has been an eight-team league.

All that, however, is about to change dramatically. I believe that is a very good thing, and not just from a newspaper coverage standpoint.

The league will begin life as a two-conference, 15-team powerhouse this fall.

The new-look Suburban League encompasses not only the seven largest schools in Record Publishing Co.'s Weekly Division area, but also the Record-Courier's largest in Kent Roosevelt.

There's something to say about being able to have all the schools under one roof.

Besides that, although the new members may seem far flung, the conference is fairly compact, especially when compared to the now-defunct Northeast Ohio Conference.

All the members are either in or adjacent to Summit County. What's more, all of Summit's Division I public schools outside of Akron now are in the one league -- except Green.

That last sentence is a bit ironic. Green's desire to move to the Federal League -- mostly made up of Stark County schools -- was the first domino that ended with the Suburban League doubling its size.

The backbones of the new conferences are clear: Route 43 to the east, Route 82 to the north and Route 21 to the west.

However, all that isn't what has me excited about the new conference; it's that the league will have state-caliber programs in virtually every sport.

Taking a look at the smaller-school American Conference, there will be Aurora, Barberton, Copley, Kent Roosevelt, Medina Highland, Revere and Tallmadge.

Soccer, particularly on the boys side, will be fun to watch. There's a lot of strength in golf as well.

As for football, there's power here at the Division II-III level. Aurora, Roosevelt, Tallmadge, Copley and Highland all have winning traditions on the gridiron.

I tend to think Aurora might be the favorite, but only because I have a tendency never to bet against Bob Mihalik-coached teams.

Taking a look at the big school National Conference, there are Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Cuyahoga Falls, Hudson, Nordonia, North Royalton, Stow-Munroe Falls, Twinsburg and Wadsworth.

Winning a division title in any sport while competing against this lot should be viewed as the equivalent of a district title.

In fall, volleyball, soccer in both genders and cross country will be complete gauntlets. There's plenty of strength in golf, too. And then there's football.

Consider this: The National Division will contain two state Final 4 contenders from 2014 (Nordonia and Hudson), two other playoff teams from 2014 (Brecksville and Wadsworth) and two others who made the playoffs since 2012 (Stow and Royalton).

I think "The Imperial March" from "Star Wars" would be a good anthem for National Conference football. It's that strong.

Let's not even get into how much fun wrestling and girls basketball should be. Baseball? Are you kidding me? The National Conference may be the toughest public-school division in the state.

Of course, there are going to be struggles for the new-look league.

After the two-division format was established, Cloverleaf bolted for the Portage Trail Conference. Competitiveness still counts for a lot when it comes to league switching.

I wish the league could have decided to bring in a 16th member before play commenced. Bedford, Canal Fulton Northwest, Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy and Maple Heights were all considered, but none earned the 12 votes necessary from current members to join.

No matter what the issues, here's hoping this version of the Suburban League endures as well as its one-tier predecessor. Stability may be rare in high school leagues, but it remains very important.

Email: mleonard@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4190

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