Some children of the 1980s recall many a sleepover centered around trading baseball cards late into the night.
That feverish back-and-forth brings to mind the “Let’s Make a Deal” style school-swapping ongoing between the Upstate Eight and DuPage Valley conferences.
Glenbard North is the latest school from one of the conferences to at least flirt with switching sides. If the Carol Stream school ends up switching from the DVC to the UEC, it would add to an already head-spinning volume of recent movement between the two nearby leagues.
To quickly recap the past couple years: Lake Park moved from the UEC to the DVC, and already has been replaced by former DVC member West Chicago. West Aurora and Glenbard East then announced they will leave the DVC for the UEC effective next school year, and then beginning in 2015-16, UEC members Metea Valley, Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley will replenish the DVC’s ranks.
That will leave the UEC with an odd number of schools, a scheduling quandary that could be fixed by the UEC poaching Glenbard North from the DVC.
Glenbard North athletic director Matt Bowser said discussions with coaches emboldened the school to respond open-endedly to the UEC’s recent letter expressing interest in exploring adding the Panthers to the UEC. Bowser said Glenbard North is in the preliminary stages of investigating the move, with a February meeting planned with the UEC to delve into the possibility in more depth.
The already fiercely competitive DVC adding huge-enrollment schools Metea, Neuqua and Waubonsie – all current powers in many sports in the UEC’s Valley Division – has prompted Glenbard North to give more thought to its conference future.
Bowser, a St. Charles resident, said Glenbard North’s enrollment has gradually decreased from about 2,800 students to 2,400 students in his six years at the school.
“I think in talking to [coaches at Glenbard North], it’s really a combination of changes occurring within the DuPage Valley Conference, that coaches have seen those changes that are occurring, and you combine that with the opportunities that would be available within the Upstate Eight, and I think that’s what caused the interest, the combination of both of those,” Bowser said. “Obviously, both are good conferences, there are strengths and weaknesses within both of them. We’re excited we’re in this position.
“We love being in the DuPage Valley Conference, with what it’s done for our school, but with other opportunities, we want to make sure, in an evolving DuPage Valley Conference, we are weighing all of our options.”
Bowser acknowledged the recent conference maneuvering between the DVC and the UEC has been remarkable.
“I haven’t seen anything around like that in this area,” Bowser said. “It’s been challenging to be a part of. I think both sides are really looking for stability, looking to do what’s best for each individual school as well as what’s best for the conference. It’s taken a lot of communication and a lot of moving pieces. I think it’s been challenging for everyone involved in trying to do what’s best for their school and still trying to communicate with their conference and be respectful.”
From the UEC’s standpoint, adding Glenbard North would be close to a coup.
It’s close enough to the conference’s geographic sweet spot, and with the coming losses of Metea, Neuqua and Waubonsie, adding a school with strong football and formidable teams in several other sports is especially important.
The UEC will stand at 16 schools in 2014-15 with the arrivals of West Aurora and Glenbard East, then dip to 13 for 2015-16, pending whichever replacement(s) materialize. The UEC could look to add three new members – no shortage of schools have been tossed into the internet rumor mill – or be content with adding Glenbard North or a different school and stick with 14, the number that has been in place since Batavia and Geneva joined in 2010.
Bowser said Glenbard North would join the UEC no sooner than 2015-16, but added that staying put is very much in play.
“There’s been a lot of speculation that we’ve already made a decision – that’s really not the case,” Bowser said. “We’re just trying to look at all of our options and determine what’s best for our school.”
This is no game unfolding between the UEC and the DVC, but it’s starting to feel that way. Even those who weren’t into baseball cards surely can relate.
Red Rover, Red Rover, let Glenbard North come over?
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.