Burlington Central intends to leave the Big Northern Conference to join a new league, and the Rockets have company.
Under a proposal presented to the District 301 school board by Burlington Central principal Matthew Haug and athletic director Steve Diversey at Monday's meeting, the school would withdraw from the Big Northern Conference's East Division following the 2014-15 school year along with Marengo, Harvard and Genoa-Kingston, all original members of the BNC, founded in 1991.
Also included in the presentation as prospective members of a new league were Richmond-Burton and Johnsburg. According to the proposal, those schools "have been a part of the discussion but have not yet officially committed to the new conference." Richmond-Burton has been a member of the BNC since its inception. Johnsburg was slated to rejoin the BNC East next fall after eight years in the Fox Valley Conference.
Those six schools would join Woodstock and Woodstock North to form an eight-member conference. District 200 officials announced last week that Woodstock and Woodstock North intend to leave the FVC for a new league after the 2014-15 school year, but did not specify at the time which schools would join them.
The proposal, which was met with positive comments from District 301 school board President Laura Rabe and secretary Gary Weigand, is expected to be approved when the board reconvenes in December.
The proposal pointed to multiple benefits of joining the new league for Central:
Increased opportunities for athletes. All eight schools in the new league would field varsity and junior varsity or sophomore teams in 23 sports. Members would also field freshman teams in football, boys soccer, girls volleyball, boys and girls basketball, wrestling, baseball and softball. That hasn't always been the case with some of the smaller schools in the BNC East like North Boone (531) and Rockford Christian (431), which have not been invited to join the new league.
Reduced travel times and expenses. The longest drives for Central teams would be to Harvard and Johnsburg, "which isn't that bad of a drive now that the bottle neck in Huntley has been fixed," Diversey said.
Shorter travel times would reduce the need for students to miss class for athletic competitions. Currently, it is common for Central athletes to be dismissed from school early in order for teams to arrive on time for afternoon contests at far-flung BNC crossover locations like Stillman Valley, Byron, Oregon and Rock Falls.
The relative proximity of the schools in the new league will "increase parent availability to travel to contests," according to the proposal. Diversey said a common complaint in recent years has been that crossover contests take place too far away for working parents to attend in time.
Based on enrollment figures given to the board, Burlington Central would be the largest school in the new league with 1,051 students, followed by Woodstock (950), Woodstock North (930), Richmond-Burton (786), Marengo (760), Johnsburg (709), Harvard (703) and Genoa-Kingston (640).
Diversey said informal talks about leaving the conference have taken place among members of the BNC's East Division for years, but Central wasn't formally approached about joining the new league until mid-October. He said the move would be a good one for Burlington Central.
"Each player in this has a different reason for wanting this to develop, which makes it unique and makes it a good opportunity," Diversey said. "All eight may not have the same unified purpose or reason, but ultimately it's what's best for the kids. For some it's travel, for some it's competition at all levels and for some it's finances.
"We think it will result in more opportunities for our students to participate in athletics and activities. This will benefit us athletically without affecting our pocket book."