Thursday’s deadline for schools expressing interest in the Upstate Eight Conference passed with minimal fanfare, but the next few weeks should be revealing.
The UEC is conducting a fast-paced search to find a replacement for Lake Park, which is departing after this school year for the DuPage Valley Conference.
Batavia principal Lisa Hichens was hesitant to reveal details about the search, only disclosing in an email that UEC athletic directors met Thursday about the vacancy to “discuss the letters of interest that we have received.” She indicated that meetings will continue next week “as we look at all of the potential scenarios.”
One of those scenarios likely includes West Chicago, which has been publicly scolded by the Metro Suburban Conference this week. The Metro Suburban rescinded its invitation for West Chicago to join after word circulated that West Chicago was making a push to join the UEC.
“The Metro Suburban Conference wants people to know that we are not kicking West Chicago out for no reason,” Glenbard South athletic director John Treiber told Suburban Life Publications. “The reason is simple, we took them in in good faith and they kept looking. We weren’t good enough.
“We met the next day as a conference and decided what to do. We talked to the lawyers of the Metro Suburban Conference and created a letter that rescinded our offer to West Chicago. In good faith we took them in and they didn’t honor that good faith. They continued to search. We got used in the process.”
West Chicago was on track to join the Metro Suburban after bolting the DVC, which created the opening for Lake Park. Treiber went as far as to say the Metro Suburban schools “feel betrayed” by West Chicago’s maneuvering.
“I hope the Upstate Eight does the right thing,” Treiber said. “I don’t blame the Upstate Eight for West Chicago applying. But they can do the right thing when they pick schools for their conference. The ethical thing to do is pick schools that haven’t been committed to a conference already.”
Ethical gray areas aside, West Chicago would make plenty of practical sense in the UEC. Not only does its enrollment of about 2,100 students mesh well with the conference, but its geographic proximity to other UEC schools is ideal.
From West Chicago’s standpoint, in addition to the easy road trips, UEC schools generally would offer a sufficient number of levels to accommodate the Wildcats’ programs and, while the UEC would be a challenge in football, it’s still less of a reach than attempting to compete with the plethora of powerhouses in the DVC.
West Chicago AD Doug Mullaney did not return a phone message seeking comment.
Elsewhere on the conference landscape, Kaneland AD Leigh Jaffke said the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference’s search to replace Dixon is ongoing.
Bump in the road: Covering Friday’s Class 2A state semifinal boys soccer match for Wheaton Academy reinforced how significant it was for Marmion to be bumped up to Class 3A this year.
The Cadets made the 2A state semifinals last year and fielded another quality team this fall – as evidenced by a hotly contested, double-overtime loss to Wheaton Academy in a match that decided the Suburban Christian Conference championship. But pitted against the 3A postseason field this year, the Cadets went one-and-done, dropping a 1-0 regional semifinal match against Wheaton Warrenville South.
Who knows how far Marmion could have gone had it not been moved up; the gulf between the 2A and 3A field is substantial.
The dynamic was similar this fall for Marmion’s sister school, Rosary. Usually a threat in the Class 3A volleyball postseason, Rosary was promoted to Class 4A this year, and the Royals were ousted in their first postseason match against Waubonsie Valley.
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.