by Mike Slodki
MAPLE PARKâ€”In August of 2006, the Elburn Herald’s headline in the sports section
was entitled “Hello Sun,â€ previewing the Western Sun Conference.
Out of the ashes of the sprawling Suburban Prairie Conference would come a high-caliber conference in the form of Batavia, DeKalb, Geneva, Glenbard South, Kaneland, Rochelle, Sycamore and Yorkville.
With the WSC not working out due to a number of factors, like widening enrollment disparity and Batavia and Geneva’s dominance, 12 schools gathered at LaSalle-Peru High School on Monday to officially introduce the Northern Illinois Big 12, a conference consisting of DeKalb, Kaneland, Rochelle, Sycamore, Yorkville, 2010 North Central Illinois Conference entry Morris, and NCIC schools Dixon, Geneseo, LaSalle-Peru, Ottawa, Sterling and Streator.
The conference, set with an East Division and a West Division (NCIC schools) kicks offfin August of 2010.
“It’s a great feeling, and it was a great atmosphere down there,” Kaneland athletics director Leigh Jaffke said on Tuesday. “12 schools, I think we’re going to work real well together. We’ve worked with the other six schools in what we’re calling the West Division; we’ve picked them up as opponents in the past. You get Morris back, and they were in the Little Seven with us.”
Meanwhile, Batavia and Geneva were invited to the Upstate Eight Conference, who with the addition of new school Metea Valley, will be up to 14 schools.
Glenbard South is still looking for a fall 2010 conference home.
The WSC had Kaneland, at 1,229 students at seventh in enrollment just head of Rochelle at 1,166. Geneva (1,978), Batavia (1,877) and Glenbard South (1,449) were first, second and fourth. DeKalb, at 1,698, will be the most populated school, and Ottawa would be second at 1,562. Kaneland would be sixth in the conference.
The disparity between the WSC schools (2008-09 numbers) was 862 students between Geneva and Rochelle. With the new conference arrangement, the disparty would be between DeKalb and Geneseo, which has 890 students, would be 808.
For Jaffke on behalf of KHS, the signs were creeping in that a new home might be needed.
â€œThis winter, Yorkville and us were looking to possibly get out. Batavia and Geneva had been approached by other schools. We were all just trying to do what was best for our kids. We were still commited to the WSC as much as we could be, but we were all still looking,â€ Jaffke said.
When we met with the NCIC back in December in Sterling, there were about 30 schools there but not really a plan in place. As we were talking with some other schools in the NCIC, they were really wanting to get out,â€ Jaffke added.
â€œThe enrollment disparity was enormous there. Spring Valley Hall at 432 and Ottawa at 1,700 and weekend crossovers were getting difficult. Sterling, Rochelle and Yorkville met up a couple times.
A proposal was made up and it was sent to me by Seth (Schoonover) from Yorkville to check out. The (WSC) schools got together and discussed the possibilities,â€ Jaffke said.
Kaneland will mostly stick with its familiar WSC brethren in play during the week.
In football play, the divisions will play five games, and play two crossover games in weeks three and four. Boys and girls basketball will be played round-robin style for 10 games. Four crossover games are also included in the schedule. For intra-division contests, quads will be scheduled and weekend play will be the norm.
“Talking with the coaches, the positive aspects outweight the negative ones 100 percent and they’re totally behind this. Looking at the divisions, a school like Morris is only 12 miles farther roundtrip than Glenbard South was. The travel within our division hasn’t changed. The trips to the West division will be an hour or an hour, 15 minutes. With the Suburban Prairie Conference, you never knew how long it would take. Going to Riverside-Brookfield, you’d have to make it through the â€˜Hillside Strangler,â€™ and it depended on what time you left. It could take two hours. I don’t look at it as mileage, I look at it as time,â€ Jaffke said.
For Kaneland bowling, the Lady Knights will be part of a 10-team group with no divisions.
Football crossover games in the NIB12 could open the gateway for semi-regular battled between KHS and Sterling, who matched up in the 2006 and 2008 playoffs.
For Jaffke and Kaneland, the benefits look to be immediate and long-lasting.
“There will be parity between programs for a long time. All the schools in this conference are community-based schools and have tons of fans that travel. The school is the center of the community and that’s very important for us,” Jaffke said.
Northern Illinois Big 12 conference begins play in August of 2010.
East division will be former WSC schools DeKalb, Kaneland, Rochelle, Sycamore, Yorkville and new NCIC entry Morris.
West Division will be former NCIC group Dixon, Geneseo, LaSalle-Peru, Ottawa, Sterling and Streator.