RICHMOND – If Danny Oest had his choice, Richmond-Burton's athletic teams would remain a fixture in the Big Northern Conference.
But the District 157 superintendent realizes that, before long, the school may not have a choice where it competes. Oest said Wednesday night that R-B is approaching a fork in the road as other BNC East members appear headed for the Kishwaukee River Conference beginning in 2015.
Whether R-B follows, though, remains in question after board members said they need more information before deciding whether they'd vote to give R-B the green light to begin the two-year process of leaving the BNC.
BNC officials are scheduled to meet on Thursday when more formal discussions are expected to take place about the proposed new eight-member conference. While Oest said the district wants to make sure it is taking the best approach, he acknowledges he wishes the board had more time to analyze options and consider the implications of its decision.
But time may not be something R-B has much of.
"From an administrative standpoint and from an athletic director's standpoint, I think it's safe to say that we would prefer that there would not be any change," Oest said. "However, we may not be be placed in a position to have that option before us.
"We don't know what is going to happen."
The Kishwaukee River Conference is slated to begin play in the fall of 2015 and includes eight members, six of which call McHenry County home, according to a report given to the Marengo District 154 school board on Tuesday night.
According to the report, Marengo plans to withdraw from the Big Northern Conference and has "firm" commitments from Woodstock, Woodstock North, Harvard, Genoa-Kingston and Burlington Central in place to join the new league. The report stated that Johnsburg and Richmond-Burton are still considering the move.
Oest told the board he doesn't know yet whether R-B would have the option to remain in the BNC or if, with the majority of BNC East schools seeking a place in a new conference, the school would be forced to make a change as well.
"You've got a lot of things occurring very fast," R-B athletic director Pat Elder told the board. "But you don't have a lot of answers to a lot of questions."
R-B Principal Tom Lind told the board he was only contacted by the committee forming the new conference "just recently". That made some board members wonder aloud why R-B was not included in discussions about a new conference before now.
Some asked if the school's location may have played a factor, forcing the school into a decision based on the fact that it wouldn't have any other choice but to follow other BNC members to a new conference.
"That's kind of what they're looking at," board president Steve Holtz said. "They can come to us later and say, 'This is what we've got.'"
Lind said R-B's location could be a factor, but agreed with Oest that the board may be forced to make a decision about R-B's athletic future sooner than later. Lind expects to know more after Thursday's meeting but, like Oest, said R-B may be limited in its options.
Marengo, on the other hand, appears ready to move forward with a vote at its December meeting after receiving a report from athletic director Chad Olson Tuesday night.
Olson said Wednesday that nothing had been in the works in regard to Marengo looking for a new athletic conference and that the opportunity with the KRC was one "that just happened to come up at the right time."
Olson's report states that Marengo has been very frustrated by recent expansion of the BNC, which has forced the school's athletic teams to travel well over an hour to sites such as Rock Falls and Mendota.
The report also states that Marengo has been forced to find non-conference competition for freshman teams in soccer, football, basketball and volleyball since many BNC teams don't offer freshman programs in those sports.