year of preparation
KANELAND—Beginning with the upcoming 2014-15 school year, Kaneland’s home of the Northern Illinois Big XII will have officially outlasted its previous stop of the Western Sun Conference.
In year five, the conference is putting some remodeling into effect, after a year of planning.
Due to factors like decreasing enrollment, the conference’s West Division lost both Dixon to the Big Northern Conference and Streator to the Interstate Eight Conference.
“Dixon and Streator thought they had to do what they had to do, and you respect that,” said Kaneland athletic director Peter Goff. “I’ve been to one AD meeting, and there is no serious talk about adding anybody else. Maybe there will be some talk later.”
The move, after a meeting of conference principals in March 2013, left an imbalance of the East and West divisions. Rochelle moving to the West provides balance for the ensuing school years. The conference athletic directors had previously met earlier that month.
The East now consists of DeKalb, Kaneland, Morris, Sycamore and Yorkville, while the West is comprised of Geneseo, LaSalle-Peru, Ottawa, Rochelle and Sterling.
“When I was in the NCIC with Sterling, we lost Rochelle,” Goff said. “People leave and you make adjustments. We got them back here. I think it’s a very solid conference, both East and West.”
While affecting the football scene fiercely, with schools like Kaneland beginning the 2014 football campaign with three non-conference games and ending with two crossover games, the moves affect other sports to varying degrees.
Second-year volleyball coach Kerri McCastland won’t see her crew’s routine changed much, as Dixon and Streator were not scheduled as two of the West crossover matches anyway. Regular conference tussles still take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“Last year, we had Rochelle, and we had L-P. That was great to face a State qualifier. This year, we have Sterling and Ottawa. This will be great to go to a different way. Sterling comes here, and it’ll be a great awareness for them to check us out. But, it doesn’t matter to me,” McCastland said.
“In this case, it’ll be better for how much land we have to try to cover for a conference match. I think it probably frees up your ability to play other schools for non-conference. You get a different flavor somewhere else,” McCastland said.
On the other side of the NIB-12 wall, outgoing conference president Greg King, of Sterling, has had time to sit with the decision and is comfortable.
“The only challenge will be looking for other teams who would like to join,” King said. “This is an excellent conference.”
King, who vacated the rotating president’s chair to Ottawa’s Mike Cooper, likes the stability of 10 teams, but would like the conference to expand eventually.
“This is a great football conference, more playoff teams in the East, but it’d be tough looking for wins, and right now, that’s the challenge,” King said.
Sports like boys cross country will have a different look, even though the sport competes in a unified meet come October’s conference championship.
“We lose three all-conference spots; Dixon filled three of them. You have to finish in the top 18. We lose a lot of quality people from those two schools. I’ve liked my dealings with them,” Clarey said.
Clarey said he feels that despite the loss of perennial contender Dixon from the ranks, there will be an air of normalcy during most of the season.
“I would never guess how the other sports are affected. We only see the other side once out at the conference meet. Dixon was a perennial tough opponent, and Streator was a program in flux. It’s definitely a hit to the talent, but there are still good programs here,” Clarey said.
In the 10-team enrollment picture, DeKalb sits as the largest school at 1,638 students, while Geneseo replaces Dixon as the smallest school at 832.