A plan to join the two leagues would require at least five of the six schools in each conference to approve the move.
Faced with an uncertain future for the dwindling Tri-Rivers Conference, on February 12th the Scotland County R-I Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution of support for a proposed merger of the TRC with the Lewis & Clark Conference.
The proposed merger of the two leagues is contingent upon 80% approval of the Lewis & Clark membership and the Tri Rivers Conference membership.
“This is basically a sign of support by our district for the proposal,” said Superintendent Ryan Bergeson. “It will still be totally dependent upon similar action by the other school districts involved.”
The Tri-Rivers Conference currently consists of SCR-I, Schuyler County, Milan, Knox County, North Shelby and Putnam County.
Both Milan and Putnam County have been offered the opportunity to join the Grand River Conference, which consists of Albany, Braymer, Gallatin, King City, Maysville, Princeton, Polo, South Harrison, Stanberry and Worth County
Earlier this month the GRC announced the addition of Trenton, St. Joseph Christian, North Andrew, and Pattonsburg, effective in 2016-17 as the result of a meeting in St. Joseph on Friday, February 6th.
A February 27th deadline has been established by the conference for the two TRC schools’ decisions.
The Lewis & Clark Conference will drop to just five teams next season after the loss of Slater. Harrisburg, currently an independent school, is slated to join the Lewis & Clark Conference in 2016-17, returning the league to six schools after Slater leaves following this season to join the Central Activities Conference, along with Pilot Grove, where they join Cairo, Glasgow, Madison, New Franklin and Sturgeon.
The LCC Conference currently will have just five teams in 2015-16, with Salisbury, Paris, Westran, Marceline and Fayette.
“We realize this will expand the geographical boundaries of both of our leagues, but in today’s climate of schools leaving their traditional homes for proverbial greener pastures, Scotland County is trying to be proactive to ensure we have a conference to play in, in the future,” stated Bergeson.
Athletic Director Lance Campbell indicated the proposed merger would be most beneficial for football, which would be extremely difficult to schedule games for without a conference.
He also noted the added benefits of conference membership, such as post-season honors, and league standings offering the kids something more to play for.
Neither administrator offered any predictions on whether or not the proposed merger would garner the needed votes.
“It has been a very lengthy process,” Bergeson stated. “We have tried to look at all our options and weight the advantages and disadvantages of a number of different scenarios.”
The Tri-Rivers Conference has consisted of just six teams since the departure of Clark County and Brookfield, which left to join the Clarence Cannon Conference after the 2009-10 school year. The CCC also includes Monroe City, South Shelby, Palmyra, Macon, Highland, Louisiana, and Centralia.
Ironically, the CCC dropped to just nine teams this year after losing Mark Twain to the Eastern Missouri Conference (EMO).
That number could have been even lower, but South Shelby and Monroe City both declined official invites this year to join the Lewis & Clark Conference.
Traditional rivalries and loyalties to historical pairings are being tested as school districts are forced to shop around for better fits to meet changing enrollment sizes and Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) classifications.
Campbell pointed out that the TRC and LCC merger would make a lot of sense, as North Shelby would be the lone Class 1 school, with all 11 other schools all currently Class 2.
To limit travel costs, the proposed league could consist of northern and southern divisions, with limited inter-division play, meaning schools from the north, such as SCR-I, would not have to play all six southern schools every year.
In football for example, that would mean SCR-I would likely only have to travel to play at Harrisburg or Fayette no more than once every four years.
The merger could mean additional travel for member schools, but Bergeson was quick to point out that if either or both of the two leagues loses any more members, the remaining schools will likely be having to travel even further to find competition.
“As more leagues add teams, the ones left on the outside looking in are going to have fewer options for scheduling games, as those schools’ schedules will be full playing fellow league members,” explained Bergeson. “That is why we are trying to be as proactive as possible so we are not sitting here with little to no options after a few of our fellow conference teams are lured away to another league.”