Harvard plans to leave BNC for Kishwaukee River Conference

HARVARD – Harvard will join Marengo in submitting its plans to leave the Big Northern Conference when BNC principals hold their Board of Control meeting May 8.

Harvard principal Rob Zielinski and athletic director Matt Rife addressed the Harvard School District 50 board at its meeting Wednesday night about the plans. Harvard and Marengo, which are McHenry County’s oldest football rivalry, plan on joining the new Kishwaukee River Conference in 2016-17.

Zielinski was in a meeting Friday with representatives from Burlington Central, Marengo, Woodstock and Woodstock North, the schools that are forming the KRC. Woodstock and Woodstock North are members of the Fox Valley Conference but will be the smallest schools in the FVC next year after Johnsburg leaves for the BNC.

The Marengo School District 154 board voted Monday to leave the BNC. Zielinski said District 50’s attorney told him a school board vote to leave the BNC was not required, but Zielinski wanted to keep the board abreast of their plans.

“We intend on having a letter signed by me, and there will be one from Marengo’s principal, saying our intention to withdraw from the Big Northern Conference as an active member on July 1, 2016,” Zielinski said. “We’ve had a lot of discussions [about the conference] with our board for a couple of years. Every time we tell them, they say, ‘OK, that makes sense.’ ”

Also in Wednesday’s board meeting, Sean Saylor was officially hired as football coach, and Mark Payne was hired as wrestling coach. They are replacing Harvard’s longtime coach Tim Haak, who coached both of those sports for most of three decades.

Saylor will teach physical education at Harvard High School. Payne will work as credit recovery teacher at District 50’s Harvard Academy.

The KRC topic became hot late in the fall, and discussions continued through the winter between the Woodstock schools and various BNC schools. At points, the KRC seemed to be losing traction, but recently it picked back up.

“We hope we’ll have [at least] six, but we’re prepared to go with five,” Zielinski said.

The question remains whether Richmond-Burton or Johnsburg, or both, might also come to the KRC.

Rife thought the travel factor could not be overlooked.

“For travel and being fiscally responsible, it just doesn’t make sense to go down that [BNC] road,” Rife said.

In the KRC, Harvard’s longest trip might be to Burlington Central. In the BNC, it could go as far as Rock Falls or Dixon.

“Most of December, January and February was problem-solving,” Rife said. “Can we make it work? There were good discussions on it. Ultimately, Marengo was the most pro-active of anybody in this and that was kind of driving it.”

With the KRC offering shorter distances and geographical rivalries, Harvard felt it had to jump.

“That crossover game that’s far away could now be the conference game that’s far away,” Rife said.

Zielinski explained that by BNC by-laws, schools are asked to give two years notice before leaving. A vote would be needed to allow schools to leave earlier than that.

“Most conferences are set up that way,” he said. “You need two years for both things to happen, the [new] conference to set up and the [existing] conference to set up their schedule.”