Round 1 of changes to the Upstate EIght Conference is nearing a resolution, but the second phase could be just as interesting.
Glenbard East principal Josh Chambers said this week that he is hopeful the district’s school board will be prepared to vote on the Upstate Eight Conference’s invitation by its Jan. 28 meeting. West Aurora’s board voted earlier this week to authorize the school to join the UEC, but West Aurora’s fate appears linked to Glenbard East since the UEC wants an even number of schools in the conference for scheduling purposes.
If Glenbard East and West Aurora both join, the UEC would expand from 14 schools to 16 for either the 2014-15 school year or 2015-16, depending on how long the DuPage Valley Conference board of control makes the exiting schools wait before departing. That 16-school total assumes no current UEC schools bolt (potentially for the DVC) in the meantime.
If all goes as the UEC hopes the next couple weeks, the matter at hand will soon turn to divisional restructuring. Currently, the River Division contains the conference’s seven smaller schools – including Batavia, Geneva, St. Charles East and St. Charles North – while the Valley Division houses the bigger schools.
Next school year, new conference member West Chicago will replace outgoing Lake Park in the UEC Valley, but the conference has said it will re-examine the divisional makeup after the 2013-14 school year.
How would Glenbard East and West Aurora fit into that picture? For now, West Aurora athletic director Jason Buckley and Glenbard’s East’s Chambers say they have been made no promises.
“We would have a seat at the table to discuss that restructuring,” Chambers said.
“I think if everything [else] stayed the same, the assumption is we’d probably end up on the Valley side but I think if there is some shifting around based on demographics, based on geography, I think there might be some changes on both sides, so we’ll see,” he added. “We have a very open mind, and we’d love to come to that table if it happens and obviously look at what’s best for both our school and the conference.”
From a Tri-Cities perspective, simply shifting West Chicago to the current River Division and slotting West Aurora and Glenbard East in the Valley would probably be a preferred solution, but who knows how other schools’ priorities might shape the deliberations.
The wild card is whether Waubonsie Valley, Neuqua Valley and/or Metea Valley could be lured from the UEC to the DVC if the DVC needs to replenish its ranks.
As Glenbard East nears its decision, Chambers said trying to think too many steps ahead is a dangerous game.
“I think our position would be if we’re joining the Upstate Eight, we’re joining the Upstate Eight to make it a 16-team conference,” Chambers said. “That’s what it’ll be, and if there are shifts in the DuPage Valley, I think you could make an argument given the 22 schools currently involved between the Upstate Eight and DVC, you could make an argument about sort of creating three conferences. Sure, you could come up with all sorts of scenarios, but we have to just try to operate on what is real.”
Transfer talk: The IHSA announced Tuesday the adoption of 11 bylaw changes approved through a vote by IHSA membership. The one that has garnered the most attention is a change that removes automatic eligibility for first-time transfers from private schools to public schools or to another private school.
Presently, student-athletes transferring from public schools to private schools typically have to sit out a year before becoming eligible. Now, that will work in reverse, too, unless the student’s family can demonstrate a change in the family’s financial status or “extenuating circumstances” necessitating the transfer.
The IHSA will require all transfer students who do not change residences with their families to submit documentation explaining the circumstances of the transfer, in hopes of cracking down on transfers driven by athletics.
Aurora Central Catholic athletic director Sean Bieterman said he is “somewhat shocked that public schools wanted this” considering the current policy is more favorable to transfers into public schools. The measure passed by a vote of 303-159, the closest total of any of the 11 proposals.
The new bylaws take effect on July 1. Bieterman speculated that some families considering transfers might rush their decisions to avoid the new regulations.
“I wonder how many people are going to be transferring in the second semester,” Bieterman said. “That’s an interesting question. Typically all transfers are at the semester. In rare occasion it may not, but there might be some families highly reluctant to transfer at the end of the year when they know eligibility is going to be a major issue.”
St. Charles East AD Mike Sommerfeld said he does not expect the change to have a major effect on public schools since many transfers from private schools to public schools are made due to financial circumstances.
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or email@example.com.