RICHMOND — With its hands seemingly tied, Richmond-Burton’s District 157 school board unanimously voted Wednesday night to accept its invitation to join the Kishwaukee River Conference. The vote took place after a near hour-long discussion.
As a result, R-B is set to begin play in the now six-team KRC for the 2016-17 academic year. Other conference members will include Burlington Central, Harvard, Marengo, Woodstock and Woodstock North.
R-B Superintendent Dan Oest declined to comment on the vote afterward. Athletic Director Pat Elder declined as well.
In order to join the KRC by 2016, Richmond-Burton needed to notify the Big Northern Conference by Aug. 1 because the conference asks for two years notice prior to leaving.
Johnsburg, R-B’s closest geographical rival, could vote on the matter at its next scheduled meeting on Tuesday. Johnsburg had been a member of Fox Valley Conference, but is moving to the BNC this fall.
Johnsburg’s second-closest road trip, if it stayed in the BNC, would be 44 miles (Rockford Christian), while its longest in the KRC would be Burlington Central (37). Most BNC trips would be more than 60 miles.
“I kind of like voting before Johnsburg,” board vice president Dave Thomas said.
Travel stood as the biggest factor in the decision. Elder countered during the meeting that the travel issue would fester regardless.
“Travel is going to be an issue for us in either league,” he said. “You’re either going to travel for non-conference, or you’re going to travel for conference.”
Because of the KRC’s smaller size, the onus would be on R-B to schedule non-conference games for football, presenting travel concerns itself.
Though the vote was unanimous, it was less than enthusiastic, as members were irked by the lack of information from the KRC. They said they had not received detailed information such as additional follow-up or a long-term plan from the KRC since the initial invitation.
“That’s part of the frustration,” board president Steve Holtz said.
Board members expressed concern over the potential odd number of teams in the KRC. Should Johnsburg join, the KRC would have seven teams. Thomas added that, according to the Illinois High School Association, 40 percent of athletic conferences have an odd number of teams.
Elder remained bothered by the uncertainty.
“The most succinct answer I have for you is that you have a lot more answers and options from the Big Northern than you do from the KRC for an Aug. 1 deadline,” he said. “You have more options and answers from the league you’ve been in for 20 years than the league you don’t really know a lot about.”
Said Thomas,” This is a mess.”
“Yes, it is,” responded Elder.