Batavia, Geneva most welcome in UEC

Friday, May 22 2009 -

By John Radtke | Daily Herald Columnist

The conference will likely never change its name, but the Upstate Eight, which is really the Upstate Eleven right now, is soon to become the Upstate Fourteen.

Several years ago, somewhere between the time Bartlett High School opened and South Elgin was on the U-46 radar, I remember sitting around with former Daily Herald staffers Mike Miazga and Rich Carlson musing about what the UEC might look like in 5-10 years.

Now, those late-night rants are turning into reality.

I remember us talking back then about Batavia and Geneva someday becoming a part of the UEC.

Mike and Rich didn't remember because either they're too young or I'm too old, but time was when Batavia and Geneva were in the same conference as St. Charles. It was called the Little Seven and I'll send a Daily Herald water bottle to anyone who can remember the schools in that conference. Ah, heck, that would require a trip to the post office, so forget the water bottle. At one time the Little Seven was the oldest high school conference in the state. From 1919 to 1995, the LSC had several members, but the core schools were Batavia, Geneva, St. Charles, Dundee, Naperville, Sycamore, West Chicago and Wheaton.

Since the Little Seven disbanded in 1995, Geneva and Batavia have roamed into a few different conferences, the latest being the Western Sun, a short-lived league that lasted just three years after the breakup of the Suburban Prairie Conference.

Athletic directors generally work two years in advance on schedules, but when the Western Sun broke up recently, Yorkville, Kaneland, Sycamore, DeKalb and Rochelle the dissenters, Batavia, Geneva and Glenbard South were left on an island for the 2010-11 school year. While Glenbard South is still on that island, Batavia and Geneva appear only short of some final i-dotting and t-crossing to joining the Upstate Eight.

And to that we way hooray!

Think about it. Not only will the natural rivalries between Geneva, Batavia and the St. Charles schools now become conference wars instead of scheduling hassles, but the way the ADs and principals have proposed to set up the divisions, Elgin, Larkin and Streamwood also benefit.

Had the UEC stayed with 12 schools (Metea Valley, set to open this fall, is No. 12), things would have been OK. The five U-46 schools and Lake Park would have been in a division and travel would have been cut considerably. But there's nothing wrong with the farthest trip for a division game being Streamwood to Batavia either, especially when it means getting to play against some new blood.

The divisions not only make sense geographically, but enrollment-wise and competitively as well. South Elgin and Bartlett will have to play against the likes of Waubonsie Valley, Neuqua, Metea, Lake Park and East Aurora within their division but I'll bet a dollar to a doughnut that if I ever took the time to figure all this up, South Elgin and Bartlett's combined all-sports winning percentages over the last three years would be much better than Elgin, Larkin and Streamwood's.

No knocks intended there, just reality.

I spoke to a couple of ADs on Wednesday who can't really go on the record with their thoughts until this is all finalized, but trust me, they are on board with the addition of Batavia and Geneva for many reasons. And don't expect a movement anytime soon for a 16-school league either.

One of the first things you might wonder is how the heck a seven-team division will work. Just fine, thank you. It allows you to play each of your division opponents twice, or three times in some sports, and once in football, with still maintaining three nonconference football games. As for those trips to Aurora and Naperville? Hopefully there will be just one crossover in most sports, keeping the gas bills lower than they've been in years.

The hope here would be that Bartlett and Streamwood still play each other in football, and that Elgin, Larkin and South Elgin do the same. There's something about in-district football rivalries that shouldn't be messed with.

If anyone thinks a 14-team conference with two seven-team divisions looks awkward, check out the West Suburban Conference. That league has been 14 schools with two seven-school divisions since 1986 and it thrives.

In a world where so much seems to be going wrong all the time, Batavia and Geneva joining the Upstate Eight is truly a positive move for the future of high school sports in the Fox Valley area.

And they can call the conference whatever they want.