Conversation about conference realignment continued Wednesday night at the Emmetsburg Community School District board meeting. Athletic Director, Joe Carter, relayed information he had gathered since the December meeting and discussed new options for realignment.
"Being in the Lakes Conference is a tremendous challenge," said Carter. "It's a challenge for our students and it's a challenge for our coaches. We want to do what is best for our kids and make sure the opportunities and experiences are the best we can possibly offer," said Carter. "Right now, on paper, the Lakes Conference makes the most sense for us because there is no other place to easily plug us in, but there are opportunities in the North Iowa Conference."
Carter stated he had started building data on neighboring conferences. Movement is taking place as two new schools have applied and been accepted to the North Iowa conference.
Emmetsburg has already been contacted by the North Central conference and there are scenarios out there involving other conferences as well. "There's a lot of movement and discussion taking place and everyone is aware that we're always interested in being a part of those discussions," said Carter.
Size of schools, travel distance and opportunity are all major factors in the decision making process. "The opportunity to pop into a conference our size doesn't exist," said Carter.
The North Iowa Conference appears to be the most advantageous option based on a hypothetical scenario. Including the new and possible incoming schools, it would likely become a "super conference" made up of 18-20 schools.
Carter shared his thoughts on how the North Iowa Conference could be a multi-division conference to help reduce travel for Emmetsburg. The divisions would eliminate any increases in travel time and expenses. This scenario would allow Emmetsburg to play games against their division members twice but still leave room on the schedule for rivalry games and local schools.
"Conferences are going to have to get much bigger in order to get smaller," said Carter. "I have talked to the North Iowa Conference numerous times and they are aware we want to be a part of their expansion and we want to be a part of those talks." Carter was optimistic the North Iowa Conference would work with these divisions based on geography. "I think for the first time that we have enough conferences and enough schools involved that these things can become real," said Carter.
Moving to a conference with smaller schools would lower the amount of games available for the lower levels, an area where Emmetsburg produces a large number of participants. "We want to secure our lower level schedules," said Carter. "The North Iowa conference would ensure we don't lose opportunities for our 7th, 8th and 9th grade classes."
Students currently play against schools of all sizes in the Lakes Conference making it difficult to stay competitive against the larger schools. "We would like the opportunity to play schools our size where we can be competitive and have fun," said coach Anna Fiene. The high school has seen declining numbers of female participants due to losses and the inability to stay competitive. A few members of the coaching staff were present to give their opinions and they agreed the kids were starting to get beat down.
"Something needs to happen to change the current character-building losses into wins," said board member, Tammy Naig. "The more we lose, the less likely kids will go out. They don't want to work that hard to be beaten all the time. It's not all about wins and losses and I'm ok with that. It is about creating a successful and good opportunity for our kids that leaves them feeling good about themselves."
"The school sizes within the North Iowa Conference are exciting because they are comparable to Emmetsburg," added Superintendent, John Joynt. "If divisions happen, I think we should really look at the North Iowa Conference."
Schedules within the Iowa Lakes Conference are currently set through 2015. No motions were made on the topic of realignment but it was agreed that continuing to explore options would be in the best interest of the kids.
"This meeting has been a good fact finding opportunity to see how far we should go when these other opportunities are on the table," said board member Rick Brennan.
Carter reiterated, "You always have to be realistic on these things and whether or not another school would accept you." The overall consensus remained the same. It is time for something different.
"The golden opportunity may be out there. We need to find a conference that fills our needs from top to bottom and that will fulfill them going forward. There is probably no better time than right now. I would like us to pursue this and see if there is a good opportunity. If there isn't, then we suck it up and work as hard as we can, but we need to do something different," said Naig. "There may not be a clear cut answer out there right now but there is a lot of opportunity and I'd sure hope we are doing everything we can to find another opportunity equivalent to the Lakes Conference."
Board member Scott Kibbie agreed, "I believe if we stay complacent, then we aren't doing any good for our kids."