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Finances figure in West’s debate on joining Upstate Eight

Updated: January 6, 2013 9:44AM

AURORA — West Aurora School District officials are moving ahead in their consideration of switching to the Upstate Eight Conference.

This week, West High Athletic Director Jason Buckley presented the board the pros and cons of ending their current affiliation with the DuPage Valley Conference.

West High coaches recently voiced their opinions in a meeting that more has to be done to improve certain feeder programs for specific sports to improve the whole athletic program. Changing conferences could help, Buckley said.

“We think the conference move could be the catalyst to subsequent change in our programs,” he said.

The School Board has discussed the issue at three consecutive meetings, and is expected to take action at its next meeting, Jan. 7, upon a recommendation from Buckley and Activities Director Whitney Martino.

West Aurora has received an invitation to join the Upstate Eight for the 2014-15 school year. West was one of the founding members of the Upstate Eight, but left the conference to join the DVC for the 1997-98 school year.

One of the reasons for the switch at that time was to provide more opportunities to student athletes.

The DuPage Valley Conference still provides more opportunities than the Upstate Eight, officials said.

In a financial environment when spending cuts are a distinct possibility for many districts, lower-level sports may be cut at some schools, School Board President Neal Ormond said.

“This is a very tough time for us to commit without knowing where they’re going to be,” he said.

Ormond also brought up the fact that the DuPage Valley Conference plays more boys basketball games on weekends than the Upstate Eight.

Given the large crowds that the West Aurora basketball team attracts, the weekend games are a larger revenue producer for the district. Crowds are typically smaller during the week, and also depend on who the opponent is.

“It certainly has a big revenue impact that our taxpayers are not happy with,” Ormond said.

Leaders in the Upstate Eight may not be flexible and receptive to West wanting to play more boys basketball games on the weekend, he said.

One positive aspect would be that the girls basketball team may gain more visibility playing on the weekends when the boys team plays during the week.

“I don’t like less concession revenue, but I do like the girls having increased visibility,” board member Angie Smith said.

Drive times for most conference opponents would be shortened in the Upstate Eight conference, averaging 31 miles a trip, opposed to the current 44 miles in the DuPage Valley Conference. That makes transporting athletes more affordable.

Smith expressed concerns about the abruptness of the move, and that the Upstate Eight is the only alternative that West has looked at.

“My only trepidation is that this is somewhat of a shotgun marriage being forced upon us,” she said.

Buckley said he believes the Upstate Eight provides the right opportunity for the district.

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