by Jeremy Benson, GrandRiverConference.com
The Bell Game will be coming to the Grand River Conference starting with the 2024 football season with the announcement of the Marceline Tigers and the Brookfield Bulldogs joining the GRC. The Marceline School Board voted unanimously on December 19 to leave the Lewis & Clark Conference to join the GRC. The Brookfield School Board followed on December 20, also with a unanimous vote, to leave the Clarence Cannon Conference to join the GRC.
According to Marceline Superintendent, Dr. Zach Bruner, and Brookfield Superintendent, Dr. Kyle Collins, the GRC extended invitations to both Marceline and Brookfield to join the conference in November. Neither said that they were looking to leave their conferences at the time, but the GRC presented a great opportunity for them.
For Marceline, joining the Grand River Conference is an opportunity for stability. According to Dr. Bruner, the LCC had invited four schools to join the conference and only one accepted. In addition, there is concern about the landscape of schools in the conference remaining at 11-man football. Paris already announced that they were moving to 8-man for the 2023 season. And there have been discussions about others possibly making the switch.
While moving to the GRC for Marceline is the right move, it was not one that was an easy decision. Marceline had been one of the founding members of the LCC. For many, the LCC was all they had know their entire lives. But in the end, they felt it was the best move for the the school and the student athletes.
For Brookfield, geography and size were big considerations. The travel that they would have as part of the eastern division of the GRC would be less than they currently have with the CCC. In addition, with declining enrollment, they were becoming one of the smaller schools in their conference. Their enrollment is more in line with the schools in the GRC. In addition, many of the schools in the GRC are teams that they already play in many sports.
In my discussion with Dr. Collins, he said that they were not considering a move, but they always wanted to look at the best options. He wanted to add that the CCC is a great conference, but they just felt that the GRC was a great fit.
Both schools mentioned that the opportunity to have the Bell Game as a conference game and having each other as conference rivals was a plus.
We are excited to have Marceline and Brookfield as part of the Grand River Conference. While they won't be competing as members until the 2024-25 school year, we would like to welcome them to the GRC family and look forward to working with them in the future.
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