By Jackson Lambert and Liam Hellard
Though many may not know it yet, the Upstate Eight Conference (UEC) which has been the longtime home of Batavia, is in danger of dissolving this upcoming December due to the possibility of a new and larger conference made up of Batavia, Geneva, St. Charles East, and St. Charles North.
Schools such as Wheaton South and Wheaton North, current members of the Dupage Valley Conference (DVC), have struggled in their current DVC schedules, often playing against student bodies upwards of twice their own size. Due to this, these schools have for some time now been searching for an alternative to their current conference.
Initiated by many schools other than Batavia, this quest for a new home has led the Wheaton schools, alongside many former UEC teams, to begin speculating whether or not a new conference (of which there is no name) would be feasible and if so, what they have to gain by moving.
The rumors, as they currently stand, propose that this new conference (which has no proposed name) would consist of St. Charles North, St. Charles East, Batavia, Geneva, Wheaton North, Wheaton South, and Glenbard North alongside some other unverified team; which some speculate may be Lake Park.
These schools which would rank in student population from Wheaton South with a student body of 2,200 students as the largest to Batavia as the smallest with a student body of 1,940; therefore creating a closer student population divide than the Wheaton schools currently face within the DVC. The five schools that would be left behind in the DVC average an enrollment of 2964. Neuqua Valley is the largest at 3764 students, according to IHSA.org.
Weighing this change from a statistical approach, all sports would clearly factor into this move, but it would still be very motivated by football records and playoff appearances for many of the involved schools, according to athletic director Dave Andrews and head football coach Dennis Piron. It would also create a closer playing field in terms of current records (which may not be the strongest correlation) with Batavia having a record of 7-2, St. Charles North at 8-1, St. Charles East at 9-0, Geneva at 3-6, Wheaton South at 2-7, Wheaton North at 4-5, and Glenbard North at 7-2.
This idea has stirred conversation between the proposed schools so far. Andrews and Piron said that discussions have already occurred with athletic-related faculty and standing coaches for the schools, but no solid decisions or movements have yet to be made.
Changing conferences, which may seem like an easy enough task, is actually rather difficult for schools and athletic organizations. In Batavia’s case, the administration must make a decision and propose a somewhat finalized conference and future plan to the current UEC by Thurs., Dec. 1 if they have any hope of seeing this conference come to fruition by the 2018 season. Piron and Andrews both questioned the speed at which a decision needs to be made.
“With complete transparency and open and honest conversation,” Piron said when talking about the way in which the situation has been handled. “We have all discussed and talked about pros and cons and that is why we in this process are really trying to weigh our options. None of us were thinking we would be doing this; it kind of came out of left field. The administration has been great with coaches. They had had meetings and been open with us.”
Though evidence is very hard to come by, this conversation was publicly sparked by a press release from one of the other involved schools which many speculate may have been one of the Wheaton schools, forcing Batavia’s administration and coaches to address the situation.
“We have to weigh what is best for Batavia,” Andrews said in regard to thinking about this possible move and what it could mean for the school’s future.
As for what is best Batavia, Piron and Andrews were both resolute in the fact that ¨We’ve got to do our own thing¨ as both repeated several times. With an increased playing field, this move would have a long lasting impact on Batavia athletics. Student body size, which may be the deciding factor in this move, has many very skeptical as to whether this is a reasonable move or not. Though complaints may arise to this proposed move, which may or may not even occur, the true Bulldogs are not afraid of this move regardless of what happens.
¨I believe that we would definitely be at a disadvantage by being the smallest school in the conference,” said Evan Hitzman, a junior wide receiver for Batavia. “But because we are Bulldogs, we will adapt and overcome to reach the level of the other competition in the conference.”
Going forward, though the future may be very unpredictable, Batavia and its administration are confident that it will continue to thrive in whatever circumstances it chooses to face.