Northeastern Athletic Conference commissioner Pat Guiliano finds that the old adage of "Change is inevitable" fits his conference well, and based on the NAC's 11-year existence, it makes sense.
Since its inception in the fall of 2002 as a high school sports conference, the NAC has grown from a small-school conference in Trumbull County of around half a dozen schools to one of the premier small-school conferences in the area, consisting of 11 schools and stretching across four counties.
"The difference with this conference is change, and the only thing about change is that it's inevitable," Guiliano said. "To say that we're going to be this way three years from now, we can't say that. So many things may change. We do the best we can to provide the best program we can and be competitive for all the kids.
"We have to be very cognizant of all the factors involved, but as a group, we've survived. We've grown throughout the years since it's been formed. It's very good people."
The conference will grow the next two seasons with the addition of Windham and Newbury.
Although the executive committee accepted the Bombers into the conference two years ago, Windham had to wait to join until it fulfilled its requirement with its old league, the Portage Trail Conference. Now, the Bombers will be the 11th program, and Guiliano said the NAC couldn't be more thrilled to have them.
"They're going to add a lot to the conference competitively, and they're programs pretty much fit with what we have offered," he said. "They've been very, very good in the planning process and the transition process. Just very good people to work with, and they fit in very well with the rest of the conference schools."
Newbury also fits what the NAC is looking for in its members in terms of size and competition, Guiliano said, and the Black Knights will give Ledgemont, the team farthest away from the core of its members, an easier drive starting in 2014 by becoming the 12th school in the conference.
"We're not going to be as compact as we were before, but you want to look at schools that are going to be competitive and have the enrollment and size and the type of athlete that is going to be competing," Guiliano said.
While the conference is constantly changing, one school will be staying - Pymatuning Valley.
PV flirted with joining the All-American Conference when it voted to add new members in the spring, but the school district decided to stay in the NAC for now.
"Is it a boost of confidence? Maybe it is," Guiliano said. "I'm happy that they're staying. I think that they're still a good fit for us given the geography and the relationships they've already developed with the schools (in the conference)."
Because of the size of the schools (the average enrollment is 194 students), the conference also varies more than most leagues in terms of sports offered by its participating members. Only six schools participate in football and only five in girls soccer.
Three sports - boys and girls basketball and volleyball - have a two-division format because all participating members have those teams, with the exception of Bloomfield and girls basketball. Those divisions will be split up into the Star Division, consisting of Mathews, Badger, Pymatuning Valley, Grand Valley, Maplewood and Windham, and the Stripes Division, consisting of Bristol, Bloomfield, Southington, Lordstown and Ledgemont.
The conference is able to adapt, though.
"A lot has to do with what enrollment's like there, what's offered and the finances of the school district," Guiliano said. "There's a certain degree of flexibility that you have to have."
Guiliano said that while the conference consists of small schools, the teams will continue to be competitive, shown in such examples as the 2012 Bristol boys basketball team that went 22-0 in the regular season, and the 2011 Mathews softball team that was state runners-up in Division IV.
"If you look at our conference and try to compare it to some of the conferences in college, we're more the Mount Unions and Hirams of the world," Guiliano said. "We take a look at it that way."