High school principals from the Big 8 voted unanimously (8-0) on Dec. 11 to add a ninth member, McDonald County, to the conference.
"We are excited to be a part of the Big 8, not just for our athletes but also for our entire student body," said McDonald County High School Principal Kim Harrell. "Besides athletics, our students will also get the chance to compete in conference activities such as art, speech & debate, and academic bowl. That is something the Southwest Conference did not offer."
McDonald County was classified by the Missouri State High School Activities Association as an independent when the Southwest Conference, which also included Nevada Webb City, Carthage and Neosho, dissolved in 2007.
Since the break-up of the Southwest Conference, McDonald County and Nevada had petitioned MSHSAA to be placed into the Big 8. MSHSAA formed an Ad Hoc committee to hear presentations from all parties involved.
"MSHSAA's by-laws allow its board of directors to insert schools into a conference only after all means of admission had been exhausted," said Jason West, MSHSAA communication director. "The board felt that all measures had not been exhausted. That the Big 8, Nevada and McDonald County could resolve their differences through more mediation and dialogue."
Adding both schools raised concerns about the logistics and travel to accommodate the inclusion of new members to the loss of honors and recognition of current members and the enrollment size of the potential members.
Following the most recent appeal in April, of 2011, MSHSAA asked that the Big 8 Conference evaluate each school separately for inclusion into the conference.
"We are happy to welcome McDonald County into the Big 8," said conference president and Carl Junction High School Principal David Pyle. "McDonald County is a good fit for the Big 8. They border two of our current districts and the majority of our schools already compete with them in a variety of sports and activities."
McDonald County will become a voting member of the Big 8 in July 2013 and will compete in non-athletic events in the 2013-14 school year. In July 2014 they will become full competitive members of the Big 8 Conference.
The conference will keep the Big 8 name.
"The conference feels that the Big 8 name and brand are recognized statewide," said Monett Principal Dave Stewart. "We believe that our identity doesn't need to change just because we add an additional school."