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Change is in the air up and down the Fox Valley when it comes to high school athletic conferences.
The Upstate Eight, Fox Valley, Northern Illinois Big 12, DuPage Valley and Big Northern conferences are all in various states of flux, with all four leagues expected to add at least one team in the next two years.
An announcement could arrive some time in the coming weeks from the UEC about a replacement for Lake Park, which announced in October it will join the DuPage Valley next year.
Elgin athletic director Paul Pennington said three schools expressed interest in joining the UEC before the league’s Nov. 1 deadline. He added that there is a sense of urgency to settle the matter given that the conference’s current members need to replace Lake Park on next year’s schedules.
Lake Park’s move came after West Chicago left the DVC to accept an invitation to the Metro Suburban in September. That invitation has since been rescinded after it became public knowledge that West Chicago was among the schools seeking membership in the UEC.
West Aurora’s school board announced at a meeting Monday it is also exploring a move to the UEC. West Aurora was a charter member of the league in 1963 but left after the 1996-97 school year to join the DVC.
Glenbard East is believed to be the third school seeking a move to the UEC. Like West Chicago and West Aurora, the Lombard school is currently one of the eight members of the DVC.
Lake Park’s departure dropped the UEC’s membership from 14 to 13 schools. When asked if the UEC would consider adding more than one school, Pennington said the league is keeping all options open.
“We’re looking to see what’s in the best interest of kids,” Pennington said. “We know there are some options, and we’ve weighed heavily on those options to see what things might look like and knowing what could happen in the future if there were other teams that wanted to come into the conference, or certainly other teams that might want to leave the conference as well.
“We’re just keeping those options open knowing it’s sensitive right now, but at the same time we’ve got to move forward. Decisions have to be made. We can’t get into December not knowing who is going to be in the conference and what next year is going to look like.”
While the changing face of the UEC remains ongoing, the series of changes in the Big Northern Conference appear to be coming to an end.
The BNC announced earlier this year that Dixon and Johnsburg will join the league for the 2014-15 school year.
Their additions complete a makeover that has seen the conference add five new members and expand from 12 to 16 schools since 2011.
Johnsburg’s inclusion in the BNC marks its return to a league it left following the 2006-07 school year. It also creates an opening in the Fox Valley Conference, where Johnsburg is currently a member of that league’s Fox Division. Meanwhile, Dixon’s move to the BNC leaves a vacancy in the Northern Illinois Big 12.
Burlington Central has long been rumored to be a candidate to join the Northern Illinois Big 12, which includes nearby schools such as Sycamore, Kaneland and DeKalb.
However, all signs indicate Burlington Central is content with its status as a member of the BNC.
Expect other rumors to circulate as the UEC, FVC and Northern Illinois Big 12 continue to search for new members to fill out their ranks.
Until those decisions are made, how things will ultimately shake out is anyone’s guess.