Big 8 not likely to expand soon

Thursday, April 28, 2011

McDonald County and Nevada will not be joining the Big 8 Conference. Not yet anyway.

After an ad hoc committee from the Missouri State High School Athletic Association met with representatives of the Big 8 last week, the MSHSAA committee decided not to favor either side in the proceedings.

Current Big 8 member schools are concerned about the relative size of both McDonald County and Nevada and also the travel logistics of an expanded conference.

Carl Junction is the only Class 4 school in the conference at this time, and the school most sympathetic to the plight of the two petitioning schools. Like McDonald County and Nevada, Carl Junction is a western tier school district and is required to travel extensively to fulfill conference obligations.

Cassville Superintendent Richard Asbill looked past the obvious football comparisons and worried about the extra travel and missed academic time for other activities.

"For us, the position is that it's not a good fit based on the fact that it increases mid-week travel time," said Asbill.

Six of the current Big 8 schools compete in Class 3 in football: Aurora, Cassville, East Newton, Monett, Mt. Vernon and Seneca. Lamar is both Class 2 in football, while Carl Junction is the lone Class 4 school district in the conference. Adding two Class 4 schools would certainly skew the power grid.

McDonald County Athletic Director Jeff Wilkie indicated that his school would continue to push for inclusion in the Big 8 Conference, and Jason West, the communications director for MSHSAA, seemed to support the idea.

"The (MSHSAA) committee believes that the schools are a good fit for the conference, and they believe the parties can make it work," said West.

COC blueprint?

The Central Ozark Conference has been mentioned as a possible conference home for McDonald County. The COC has two divisions, with a break in size of school districts represented in each.

Could the Big 8 eventually split into two divisions like the COC to accommodate McDonald County and Nevada? Or would adding the two Class 4 schools cause other schools to end their affiliation with the Big 8?

Status quo

What is more likely is that the status quo will continue. McDonald County has attempted to join the Big 8 before and met with the same resistance.

MSHSAA is not in the business of mandating which schools are affiliated with the respective conferences. In fact, conference standings and championships do not figure into the MSHSAA playoff system at all.

With Carl Junction the only conference school openly supporting the expansion efforts, it is unlikely that the complexion of the Big 8 will change anytime soon.

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