West Aurora athletic director Jason Buckley said his school is in “hurry up and wait” mode as it pertains to a potential leap into the Upstate Eight Conference.
That balance tilts toward the waiting after the West Aurora school board voted Monday night to allow West Aurora High School to accept the UEC’s invitation, provided Glenbard East also opts to defect from the DuPage Valley Conference.
West Aurora and Glenbard East could swell the conference’s ranks from 14 to 16 schools in 2014-15, but there are some loose ends that need to be resolved first.
For one, there remains the question of how the DVC would replenish its ranks if West Aurora and Glenbard East join the Upstate Eight. UEC Valley Division schools such as Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley have been tossed around as logical targets for the DVC.
The time frame for West Aurora and Glenbard East joining also remains in question.
“The principals have to decide on that within the DVC,” Buckley said. “We do have a two-year [notice of departure] bylaw agreement. Exactly whether or not this year counts as one of those two years is still up for discussion but if it happens to be a year later, then so be it.”
Glenbard East’s response to the UEC invitation is expected within the next month.
For its part, the West Aurora board voted unanimously to pave the way for the Blackhawks’ return to the Upstate EIght. West Aurora was a charter UEC member before bolting for the DuPage Valley Conference in 1997.
Buckley said the UEC did a good job addressing the school’s questions in recent weeks as West Aurora weighed the invitation.
“The levels of play were one of the biggest,” Buckley said. “We wanted to make sure we weren’t going to lose levels, whether it’s freshman or B games or JV games or anything like that. We wanted to make sure our student-athletes are going to get opportunities to participate as much as possible. There was some concern on that. We felt that the responses from the Upstate Eight were satisfactory, and we felt very good with where they stand.”
West Aurora’s most prominent program is boys basketball, and there were also initial questions about the number of weekday basketball games played in the Upstate Eight, which could cut into West’s revenue from weekend home games.
“It was something that maybe was misunderstood early on, and I think one of the things that was misunderstood was Thursday night boys basketball games are not going to be a weekly event,” Buckley said. “That’s just not the case. Not only are they not playing every boys basketball game on Thursday night, they also have the ability to change [the date]. The home team can change them with mutual agreement from the visitors, so if things do line up the way we think will be best, we can certainly alter our schedule.”
Buckley said in November that the UEC’s future divisional structure – currently, there is the larger school Valley Division and the smaller River Division, which includes each of the four Tri-Cities schools – is “something we care pretty deeply about,” but on Tuesday he said there is no clear framework for how the conference additions would tweak the divisional format.
In addition to West Aurora and Glenbard East potentially hopping to the UEC, the Upstate Eight and DuPage Valley are essentially swapping schools – Lake Park from the UEC to the DVC, and West Chicago from the DVC to the UEC – for next school year.
Given all the moving parts between the two conferences, Buckley said he supports as much transparency as possible as circumstances unfold.
“I think we’d all be served by keeping communication open,” Buckley said. “That was something we wanted to make sure we do. We’re trying to be very upfront with the DVC. We certainly don’t want to burn any bridges along the way. ... We want to make sure we continue the dialogue because we want to keep a positive relationship with everyone involved, regardless of how everything turns out.”
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.