Journal Express, Knoxville, IA


August 28, 2012

Should Knoxville switch conferences?

Knoxville — As enrollment in Knoxville Schools continues to decline, the district is at a crossroads not only academically, but athletically as well. The South Central Conference (SCC) has invited the district to switch its athletic affiliation from the Little Hawkeye Conference (LHC) to theirs. 

Knoxville was a member of the SCC until the mid-1990s, when they were respectfully asked to leave because the smaller schools in the SCC found it difficult to compete with the numbers Knoxville, Pella and Oskaloosa were boasting. Today, Knoxville has become the small school, finding difficulty in competition, as a member of the LHC. 

Knoxville's enrollment, at the high school level, is at 425, making it the smallest public school in the LHC. (Pella Christian has 187.) Dallas Center-Grimes plans to join the LHC next year, and its enrollment is at 468. The largest school in the LHC is Newton, with 666. 

If Knoxville switched to the SCC, it would be the largest school in the conference. The next closest is Centerville, with 309. 

Activities Director Randy Wilson sent information regarding the proposed conference change to 22 of his coaches. Of those 22, Wilson said 20 would support a move to the SCC. The two who want to stay in the LHC have consistently winning teams. 

Wilson told the school board last night that, at the Middle School level, some LHC schools are seeking A, B, C and D games. Knoxville's numbers can provide, at most, A and B games. The feeling among coaches, according to Wilson, is that they would have a better chance at success at the varsity level if they return to the SCC. 

"I don't want to sway anything here," Wilson said. "We're not a doormat (in the LHC)." 

There is a chance that increased success at the lowest levels of sports, in seventh grade, could lead to greater school pride and participation in sports as students progress. Wilson told the board that if Knoxville switches conferences, local rivals such as Pella, Pella Christian, PCM, Oskaloosa and Newton, would continue to be played. 

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