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The Wamac Conference has a year of scheduling headaches ahead.
But only one year.
The Grinnell-Newberg Community School District board of directors voted Wednesday night to join the Wamac, starting with the 2023-24 school year.
“Sizewise, this will be a perfect fit for us,” Grinnell High School athletics director Chris Coffman said Thursday. “The Little Hawkeye Conference ... a lot of those schools are going through a lot of growth, and we’re declining a little.”
Currently a conference with 13 members, the Wamac will lose two of them at the end of the 2021-22 school year; Dyersville Beckman and Maquoketa will join the River Valley Conference next fall.
That leaves the Wamac with 11 schools for one year before Grinnell’s entrance makes it an even dozen.
“Twelve is a heck of a lot better than 11,” said Scott Kriegel, athletics director at Center Point-Urbana. “Eleven is a difficult number, especially for volleyball and basketball.”
For 2022-23, Independence will move to the East Division, joining Marion, Mount Vernon, Solon and West Delaware, with Benton Community, Clear Creek Amana, CPU, South Tama, Vinton-Shellsburg and Williamsburg staying in the West.
“It will be a Band-Aid for one year,” Kriegel said. “Each school is going to have to find two or three non-conference basketball opponents for one year only.”
A divisional format for 2023 and beyond has not been determined. The two most likely scenarios are:
East (CPU, Independence, Marion, Mount Vernon, Solon, West Delaware) and West (Benton, CCA, Grinnell, South Tama, Vinton-Shellsburg, Williamsburg).
North (Benton, CPU, Independence, Marion, Vinton-Shellsburg, West Delaware) and South (CCA, Grinnell, Mount Vernon, Solon, South Tama, Williamsburg).
In terms of geography, Grinnell will be on the west edge of the conference. The other 11 schools are an average of 70 miles away, ranging from South Tama (22) to West Delaware (113).
With a 2020-21 BEDS enrollment of 370 students in grades 9-11, Grinnell ranks fifth of the 12 schools in the new Wamac. CCA (BEDS 523) is the largest; Williamsburg (293) is the smallest.
“These schools are in the same boat as us,” Coffman said. “They have a lot of kids that are playing three or four sports.
“Some people think the competition is going to be a lot easier in the Wamac. I don’t think that’s the case at all. The schools might be a little smaller than they are in the Little Hawkeye, but competition-wise, this will be an extremely tough conference.”
Upcoming area conference changes
Waterloo East is leaving for the Iowa Alliance Conference, effective fall 2022. That leaves the MVC with 15 members.
Dyersville Beckman and Maquoketa are leaving for the River Valley Conference, effective 2022. That will leave the Wamac with 11 members for one school year.
Grinnell is joining from the Little Hawkeye Conference, effective 2023. That will leave the Wamac with 12 members.
Dyersville Beckman and Maquoketa are joining from the Wamac Conference, and North Cedar is leaving for the Tri-Rivers Conference, effective 2022. That will leave the River Valley with 15 members.
North Cedar is joining from the River Valley Conference, effective 2022. That will leave the Tri-Rivers with 16 members.