Changes keep coming to the high school athletic conference landscape.
That’s evident with the 2015 Upstate Eight Conference football schedule approved at last Wednesday’s joint meeting of principals and athletic directors from member schools.
The current 16-team Upstate Eight Conference, with two divisions of eight teams, will drop to 13 members with the departure of District 204 schools — Waubonsie Valley, Neuqua Valley and Metea Valley — to the DuPage Valley Conference.
“It’s not ideal with 13 schools, but that’s what we have now,” said Elgin Athletic Director Paul Pennington, who chaired the football scheduling effort.
For next fall, UEC administrators approved seven- and six-team divisions for football, The Beacon-News has learned.
West Chicago will move to the new six-team Valley Division, which lost the three District 204 schools. The Wildcats join East and West Aurora, South Elgin, Bartlett and Glenbard East.
The remaining seven schools — Batavia, Geneva, Streamwood, Elgin, Larkin and St. Charles East and North — will stay on to make up the River Division.
To offset the scheduling quirks and fill in nonconference dates, each team from the UEC Valley will play a crossover with one River Division opponent and play one game against a DuPage Valley Conference foe.
West Aurora will play Elgin in Week 4 for its crossover and Metea Valley in Week 9 for its DVC draw. The Blackhawks also meet Geneva of the River in Week 1 under their previous two-year agreement for a nonconference game.
East Aurora drew St. Charles East in Week 9 for its crossover and Waubonsie Valley in Week 7 for its DVC opponent. Next year’s East-West game will be played in Week 5.
All River teams except Batavia will fill out their schedule with the crossover. The Bulldogs will take on DVC power Naperville Central and not have a crossover.
Geneva gets Glenbard East for its crossover.
Geneva Athletic Director Jim Kafer said there was no grand plan for scheduling the dates with DVC teams. “It was just strictly how the open dates worked out,” he said. “We kind of mixed and matched, I believe.”
Naperville North and Wheaton North, which will finish at the bottom of this year’s DVC standings, do not have dates with a UEC team.
Does this connection between the two leagues indicate “good-bye” may not be forever? Could there eventually be a combo “super conference” involving the two leagues’ 22 teams?
Pennington says no.
“That’s not even a consideration,” Pennington said. “Football is the only sport where we have this (connection) with the DuPage in the (UEC) Valley, and Batavia is the only school in the River that has a football game against the DVC. So no, that’s not happening.”
Kafer isn’t so sure.
“It’s like anything else,” he said. “You have to be careful to never say never. I’ve been doing this for 24 years and was involved in coaching before that and have been involved with nine different conferences. I can remember more than once where someone from a school told the conference they were committed and ended up moving a year or two later.
“Some of it’s the nature of the environment of the suburbs. There’s boom, then bust, then who knows what. Every time you set up (a conference) you hope it has the potential for longevity.”
It’s assumed the UEC would like to add at least one team to allow for two seven-team divisions or three to get back to a pair of eight-team divisions.
“The only thing that’s certain is something has to take place within two years,” Kafer said.