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West Aurora's Booker Ross gets around the corner for a big gain against West Chicago. | Donnell Collins~For Sun-Times Media
Fifteen years after leaving the conference, the West Aurora School District is considering a return to the Upstate 8.
Athletic Director Jason Buckley said this week that West Aurora has filed a letter of interest to fill a vacancy in the Upstate 8 conference.
The letter does not obligate the school, but does expresses an interest, he said. The school is now waiting to hear back from the conference to see if it is interested in having West Aurora fill the position. There were other applicants, however.
“Ultimately our goal is to provide our student athletes with a positive experience,” he said.
Buckley and Director of Student Activities Whitney Martino presented the high school’s options at a School Board meeting Monday night.
West is currently in the DuPage Valley Conference, where it has struggled at times in various sports. The West Aurora boys teams have eight first-place DVC finishes across all sports in 14 years of competition. The girls have 14 first-place finishes in that time.
West Aurora was a charter member of the Upstate 8 in 1963.
The district left the Upstate 8 after the 1996-1997 school year, and joined the DVC for the 1997-98 school year.
In a coach’s survey, 56 percent of West Aurora coaches did not think their program was a good fit for the DVC. In the same survey, 65 percent of coaches did not believe their program could compete for a title every two to three years.
“We’re just looking to see what the other conferences could potentially offer us,” Buckley said.
West Aurora’s interest was piqued after Lake Park left the Upstate 8, creating the opening. West Chicago was also recently allowed to leave the DuPage Valley Conference for next school year. The conference usually requires a two-year advance to make a move.
School Board member Angie Smith wanted the athletic department to concentrate on the statistics regarding school placement in the DVC rather than coaches feelings.
“There is a pride aspect there,” she said. “That’s always going to be skewed. What’s not going to be skewed are the results we’ve got.”
Buckley said that he’d like to take the mindset of coaches and athletes from one of hope to one of expectation.
“I think that mindset may be lacking a little bit.”
There is, however, a concern that more schools could move conferences in coming years, recreating some of the disparity that West Aurora coaches currently see in the DuPage Valley Conference.
School Board President Neal Ormond wanted to take a different approach to the issue. Instead of becoming one of several schools to jump conferences, he suggested sitting down with the leaders of both conferences, and seeing if it were possible to create one conference with divisions that benefit all of the schools involved.
Ormond said he favors this approach regardless of the response from the Upstate 8.
“I’m suggesting that the process should involve all of these schools that face these challenges,” he said.