Two area schools behind the possible formation of a new athletic conference sought admission to the Big Northern Conference only to be told the league was not interested in adding to its 16-school membership.
Woodstock and Woodstock North approached BNC officials earlier this month about joining the league, Woodstock North athletic director Nic Kearfott confirmed Tuesday afternoon. The two schools are part of a group seeking to form the Kishwaukee River Conference to give teams an opportunity to play against like-sized schools.
Both schools, however, were informed that the league was not interested in adding new schools, BNC President Drew Popejoy said on Tuesday afternoon.
Burlington Central athletic director Steve Diversey told his school board in December that both Harvard and Genoa-Kingston, after previously committing to join the new Kishwaukee River Conference, had changed their minds and would remain in the BNC. Marengo athletic director Chad Olson said on Tuesday that his school will still consider joining the KRC.
Popejoy, the principal at Rockford Christian, said the reasoning behind the league's Board of Control's decision was not about denying the two Woodstock schools admission. Instead, he said the decision had more to do with the BNC not wishing to expand beyond 16 schools.
Johnsburg, currently a member of the Fox Valley Conference, and Dixon, which currently plays in the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference, will join the BNC this fall. Johnsburg, one of the eight schools included in Burlington Central athletic director Steve Diversey's report, will play in the BNC's East Division while Dixon will play in the West Division.
Woodstock athletic director Glen Wilson said Tuesday afternoon that the school's decision to explore membership in the BNC was not directly tied to whether the KRC would actually be formed. Kearfott concurred.
"I don't know (where we stand) – I think it's kind of up in the air," Kearfott said.
Kearfott said that Woodstock High School principal Corey Tafoya was "taking the lead" on forming a new conference. Tafoya did not immediately respond to phone messages left by the Northwest Herald on Tuesday.
"We can still look at all the options that would benefit our high schools with enrollments of about 900 (students)," Wilson said. "That has not changed."
According to published minutes from the Burlington Central board meeting on the district's website, Diversey told board members that six schools would be needed to form the new league. He suggested that principals may not explore the subject again before June.
Popejoy said "surprised" wasn't the right word to characterize his reaction to the two Woodstock school's request to join the BNC.
"It would make sense in today's high school sports landscape that schools would want to play other schools based on size and geography," Popejoy said.
Schools must give their current athletic conference two years' notice that they intend to leave their respective conference. He said no current BNC schools have given notice, but that schools have until Aug. 1 to make such an announcement.
Asked if he thought current BNC schools could possibly decide to leave for the KRC if it is formed, Popejoy said he preferred not to speak for the conference as a whole on that subject. However, he said that people have "hunches" that such an exodus could take place.