Conference search widens - NPHS applies to Big Nine, Wright County conferences

New Prague Activities Director Brad Skogerboe updated school board members on his search for a new conference home during the Monday, April 22, board meeting.

Skogerboe said the Missota Conference schools voted last week to officially disband after the 2013-14 school year, a move that has been anticipated for several months.

New Prague has already applied for membership in the Metro West Conference. The conference, which includes Bloomington Jefferson, Bloomington Kennedy, Chanhassen, Chaska, Richfield, Robbinsdale Cooper and St. Louis Park, has not acted on the application, but Skogerboe said in talking to activities directors from the conference, he anticipates that the conference will turn down at a meeting in mid- May.

Skogerboe discussed four other conference possibilities, the Big Nine, Classic Suburban, South Suburban and Wright County, and their positives and negatives.

The South Suburban would be the best fit geographically, with the furthest school just 35 miles away, but New Prague would be by far the smallest school. Schools are Apple Valley, Burnsville, Eagan, Eastview, Lakeville North, Lakeville South, Prior Lake, Rosemount and beginning in 2014-15, Shakopee and Farmington.

The Big Nine would be a good fit size-wise, but half of the schools are more than an hour’s drive. Current schools are Albert Lea, Austin, Faribault, Mankato East, Mankato West, Owatonna, Rochester Century, Rochester John Marshall, Rochester Mayo and Winona, with Northfield and Red Wing expected to be admitted for 2014-15. 

The Classic Suburban has similar sized-schools and is losing two members, but the closest school is 41 miles away. Schools in 2014-15 are Henry Sibley, Hill-Murray, Mahtomedi, North St. Paul, Simley, South St. Paul and Tartan.

The Wright County Conference has expressed an interest, with some schools of similar size and close proximity, but the current 11- member conference also has four schools that are less than half of New Prague’s size and four that are more than 60 miles away. New Prague would be the largest school in that conference.

Skogerboe said he had spoken with some of the Wright County schools who are interested. He speculated the conference might consider adding New Prague and splitting in major sports into a two-division set up that would put New Prague in six-team division with the larger schools. That would include Waconia, Orono, Hutchinson, Mound-Westonka and Delano. Schools in the other division would be Litchfield, Dassel-Cokato Holy Family Catholic, Glencoe- Silver Lake, Annandale, New London-Spicer.

After discussion, board members directed Skogerboe to submit applications to the Wright County and Big Nine conferences. Skogerboe has submitted applications and he said he expects to hear back from both conferences in the next few weeks.

Skogerboe said the Minnesota State High School League has a process to place schools into a conference if they have been turned down by membership in three conferences. However, that process could take up to 270 days (nine months). If that is the case, New Prague may not have a conference affiliation for the 2014-15 school year, forcing the Trojans to play an independent schedule. He said if it comes to that, he would ask the MSHSL to expedite the process in order to have a decision made by September 1.