It took nearly two months for all of the votes to take place, but the South Tama County School District will officially have a new conference to call home.
The Trojans will be reuniting with one of its former conferences, beginning in the 2014-15 school year. After leaving the WaMaC Conference in 2006, the Trojans joined the Little Hawkeye for five years. Since 2011, they've been part of the North Iowa Cedar League. In 17 months, the Trojans will be starting their second stint with the WaMaC.
"I think it's a great opportunity for our kids," STC Superintendent Kerri Nelson said. "I'm looking forward to rejoining the WaMaC and making it a long-term relationship with the new member schools. We're not looking to move out of the WaMaC in a few years. We want that long-term relationship."
South Tama Superintendent Kerri Nelson
This version of the WaMaC is similar to the first one, except one big difference - two divisions within the 16-team conference. South Tama will be one of the eight teams in the West Division once it joins in 2014.
"I wasn't here at that time, but from what I've heard, it was originally about the travel time," Nelson said of leaving the WaMaC in 2006. "It was one large conference and there wasn't that east-west division. Without that division, I'm not sure I could support going back. But with that division, it makes sense."
School Board Accepted Jan. 11
The South Tama County Board of Education voted to accept the WaMaC's invitation at a brief Jan. 11 meeting. At that time, STC was one of three districts invited to join the WaMaC, which was dropping to 15 teams when Waterloo Columbus Catholic announced it was leaving to join the NICL in the 2013-14 school year. That move gave the NICL 16 teams and two evenly divided eight-team divisions.
That was until the STC school board voted to accept the WaMaC invitation. STC was the only district to accept, as Oelwein and Union of LaPorte City declined the invitation. Before STC could officially join its former conference again, there were four votes that needed to take place.
The WaMaC schools' principals, athletic directors and school boards needed to vote on accepting South Tama. If enough "yes" votes were cast, the 15 school boards needed a second vote to officially allow South Tama into the WaMaC conference. WaMaC Conference chairperson Kristen Rickey sent Nelson a letter, which was received late Friday afternoon, acknowledging STC's acceptance into the conference.
"We did discuss each school and how far we'd be traveling," Nelson said. "Currently, we do travel to places like Wapsie Valley. Some of the travel times aren't that significantly different. The other thing we kept in mind is we currently do play Benton and Vinton. While they haven't been part of our conference, we continue to play those schools and keep that tradition."
One of the main reasons for the move back to the WaMaC is the sub-varsity, middle school and fine arts opportunities. The WaMaC is comprised primarily of Class 3A schools, which is on equal playing ground as STC. The NICL is mostly 2A and 1A schools, making the sub-varsity and middle school teams harder to fill.
"That's what the decision came down to," Nelson said. "There are some great opportunities in the NICL and some great opportunities in the WaMaC. Our concern was at the middle school level, we have a large volume of kids that are starting to participate and there aren't competition for them. There aren't enough teams to play and long term, that has a negative effect on your program. That was the bulk of what our discussion centered around. There are all kinds of reasons to stay or go, but that was a large part of that discussion."
South Tama will compete in the NICL for one more year before departing after a brief three-year stint. That one-year grace period was agreed upon by both parties.
"It will allow for everyone to make a smoother transition," Nelson said. "It will also provide the NICL the opportunity to find a school to replace us and to also work on the scheduling part.
"Some of the behind-the-scenes pieces of making a conference change are quite a bit of work for the staff," she added. "That's why we felt it was right to honor that commitment. It's a courtesy to the NICL. Out of courtesy to them, we are doing this. They've asked for a year notice and we believe it's the right thing to do."
South Tama County will be the eighth member to the West Division at the start of the 2014-15 school year. The other schools in the West Division include Benton Community, Center Point-Urbana, Clear-Creek Amana, Independence, Marion, Vinton-Shellsburg and Williamsburg. Waterloo Columbus will compete in the West Division through this school year.
The East Division includes Anamosa, Central Clinton of DeWitt, Dyersville-Beckman, Maquoketa, Mount Vernon, Solon, West Delaware and Western Dubuque.