Plans move ahead to expand Three Rivers Conference

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School officials from the Three Rivers Conference met recently to keep plans in motion for the new expanded league.

The new and improved conference will make its debut in the 2013-14 school year, featuring division play for all sports based on north and south alignments. Hall, Princeton and St. Bede are all ticketed to join the conference next year, which includes Bureau Valley in an expanded 15-member league.

Beyond that, nothing is set in stone. There was some discussion about having a trial run for a full league without divisional play in 2014-15 and then make a decision for the future based on the desire of league members.

“We’re always talking making sure we are doing things in the best interest to all the schools in the conference,” BV Principal Eric Lawson said. “There was talk staying with divisions and talk for the second year to possibly, depending on the votes, to try something different in all sports except football.”

Lawson and St. Bede athletic director Tom McGunnigal said there is sentiment around the league for formats. There are some schools, Lawson said, who “believe we’re running two conferences if we don’t allow it to happen.”

Lawson said the conference also wants to be fair across the board to the schools who are concerned about having to play schools with much bigger enrollments.

“I think everything will be considered and given it’s due. The athletic directors are a very cooperative group. We’re all in this for the kids and all our schools,” McGunnigal said. “Some compromises are going to have to be made. But we’re all willing to work together and get this done. We’re excited about the path this is going, and I think it’s full-steam ahead. It’s going to be a good thing for St. Bede. We’re excited.”

Interstate 80 will serve as the boundary line for the north-south alignment. Hall was already voted into the Big Rivers football conference this year and will join the Three Rivers as a whole next year. The Red Devils will join holdover Kewanee and newcomers Princeton, St. Bede, Rockridge, Sherrard and Orion to form the South Division. The North Division will consist of existing members Amboy, Bureau Valley, Erie, Fulton, Morrison, Port Byron Riverdale, Prophetstown and Sterling Newman.

Lawson said it will be the athletic directors’ tasks to handle cross-over scheduling for football and other sports. He said they would ensure schools are not playing the same schools in cross-over for football each year.

Basketball, Lawson said, adopted the Big 10, aka rival schedule, last year which provides for some home-and-away series inside divisional and some not.

“Typically for basketball, you might see schools only one time. That game counts, and if you lose, you won’t get to get them on the flip-side,” Lawson said. “It depends on how the schedule is set up. It wouldn’t be the same school each year,”

The Three Rivers was formed in 1975. Charter members were Amboy, Erie, Fulton, Morrison, Riverdale, Prophetstown, Savanna and Sterling Newman.