Heritage to leave LOVC

Distance does not make the heart grow fonder.
Heritage Superintendent Tom Davis said distance and travel times were the main consideration when the school decided to leave the Little Okaw Valley Conference.
Davis said the discussion of conference travel and the instability of football teams within the conference has been discussed for the last six weeks.
Davis said the main issues driving the decision for his district were the long travel times between schools even with the division format of the conference. He  also referenced the fact some member schools were not able to field JV football teams or have enough players to compete in varsity games.
“This was creating a competitive imbalance between the divisions, and since football often drives conference memberships, it looked as though other LOVC schools were considering changes,” he said.
Villa Grove athletic director Noreen Acton agreed and said said that difficult travel for all teams and instability in the LOVC’s football sector most played into the decision.
“The ability of schools to schedule and complete varsity seasons was a driving force for us exploring other options,” Acton said. “That’s upsetting that (the football team) could lose one of those nine games.”
Last week, 13 schools filed letters to leave the LOVC. Those include Heritage, Villa Grove,  Arcola, Argenta-Oreana,Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond, Bement, Blue Ridge, Cerro Gordo, Kansas, Oakland and Shiloh — the latter three making up the Tri-County co-op.
Other departing schools are Cumberland, Decatur LSA, Okaw Valley and Sangamon Valley, which leaves just Martinsville, Palestine, Oblong and Hutsonville as LOVC members after 2018-19.
Davis said the numerous departures could result in the former LOVC schools forming a 10 member conference which would allow scheduling of nine conference football games or a conference with six or seven members which would require teams to schedule nonconference games.
“Reduced  travel and football stability and competitiveness would be key components,” he said.
Davis said  Villa Grove and Heritage submitted applications to at least one other local conference, which gave the schools options due to the issues facing the he  LOVC.  
“The two school boards can now weigh the options of an invitation from the local established conference and if any new format arises from the LOVC action that took place today or by December 1.”
The (Springfield) State Journal-Register’s Dave Kane reported later Friday that tentative plans are in place for a new conference including several teams departing the LOVC.
Kane reported that Sangamon Valley football coach Michael Lee told him of a league that would begin operation for the 2019-2020 school year and include Arcola, Argenta-Oreana, ALAH, Bement, Blue Ridge, Cerro Gordo, Cumberland, Decatur LSA, Sangamon Valley, Tri-County and Villa Grove. The report did not mention Heritage individually, but considering its frequent co-op status with Villa Grove, as well as Acton saying the two schools were in “100 percent agreement” throughout the process of leaving the LOVC, Heritage could easily be part of this new league as well.
Acton confirmed multiple LOVC schools are in talks to begin a new conference, but she could not confirm which ones or how many. She did say, however, that both Villa Grove and Heritage received an offer to join the Vermilion Valley Conference after reaching out to Brent Rademacher, Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin’s principal.
While Acton called the invite “appealing,” she said Villa Grove and Heritage hope to stick with the departing LOVC institutions.
Davis said working with Villa Grove on this decision had been a good experience.
“I did want to add that working with the Villa Grove board and administration, especially Principal Steve Kilion and Ath Dir Noreen Acton, along with our board members, who are very savvy with extracurricular and sports for our students was very gratifying and there was a real co-op team effort to seek the best solution going forward for both schools and the coop,” he said. “We are looking forward to the next step, and as our letter states, wish the other member schools the best because we have always enjoyed being in the LOVC and the competition and highlights have been many over the years.”
The LOVC got its start in the early 1970s when Arthur, Atwood-Hammond, Bement, Cerro Gordo, Newman and Oakland left the Okaw Valley Conference to form their own league. Villa Grove joined shortly thereafter, with Arcola being added in 1981. By the 2013-14 school year, the LOVC counted all of the above schools minus Newman, plus Martinsville, among its ranks. But beginning with the 2014-15 academic year, the conference split into two divisions that included 18 of the 19 schools currently involved.
Blue Ridge is the exception, as it was set to become a football member next school year while playing other sports in the Heart of Illinois Conference.
-Colin Likas contributed to this report

Categories (2):News, Education

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