Burlington Central to join new conference

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In a move that takes effect in the 2016-17 school year, Burlington Central will leave the Big Northern Conference for the new Kishwaukee River Conference.

The move received the approval of Burlington Central’s school board this week, but will not yet become official until after Harvard’s school board approves the move May 21 so that the necessary five schools are involved and a letter of intent to withdraw can then be submitted to the Big Northern and Fox Valley conferences.

Central joins Marengo, Woodstock, Woodstock North and Harvard in the conference.

“Since it doesn’t take effect for a couple years, it gives us time to get our bylaws written and take care of other matters, and in the meantime we will be putting it out there that we’re looking for a few other schools to join the conference,” Burlington Central athletic director Steve Diversey said.

The intent is to draw in three more schools for an eight-team conference.

Richmond-Burton and Genoa-Kingston were approached about it.

In the past, Hampshire has been rumored to be part of it but is currently satisfied with the Fox Valley.

“Cost is part of the reason for the move,” Diversey said, “but I don’t know if it’s the main reason.”

The mileage involved with traveling to compete against schools in the Big Northern West caused some extra expense for Central and other Big Northern East schools like Marengo and Harvard.

However, Diversey thought the biggest plus for Central would be getting more parents the opportunity to see more games.

“We put out a survey to the community and asked their opinion on things and what we found — and it’s been pretty obvious — is that a lot of them just can’t make the 140-mile round trip to Rock Falls or next year to Dixon, or the other places in the Big Northern West,” Diversey said. “This will make it easier.”

Diversey said Central will benefit in several other ways, such as gaining conference affiliation with schools much closer to its size.

Central will be the biggest school in the conference, according to current enrollment figures, at 1,051. Woodstock North has 930 and Woodstock 950. Harvard (760) and Marengo (730) will be at the other end.

With scheduling, Central will no longer be required to play crossover games and will then be able to add more nonconference games. The girls basketball team, for example, often overpowered smaller school opponents in the Big Northern East last year and could benefit from playing more games against larger schools.

“I’m not saying the Big Northern was a weak conference,” Diversey said.

“Maybe girls basketball was an exception. But in boys basketball it was an uphill battle all year long and we get plenty of competition in other sports, too.

“A strong selling point for all of us involved is the schools will all have similar needs, interest and demands academically and athletically,” Diversey said.

“Now we can articulate those and do things with schools our own size.”

Diversey pointed out one aspect that isn’t a fit.

“We’re the only school in it where the Kishwaukee River isn’t running through town,” he said, adding that they could live with it.

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