Missota likely ‘a thing of the past’

New Prague High School Activities Director Brad Skogerboe had the grim news for members of the New Prague Area School board during a workshop meeting Monday, Feb. 11.

“It’s beginning to look like the Missota Conference will likely be a thing of the past.”

The eight-school conference has lost one member (Farmington) to the South Suburban Conference, with another (Shakopee) expected to be accepted into that conference in the near future. Two others, Chaska and Chanhassen, are expected to form a new conference of southwestern suburban schools. That leaves four schools, Holy Angels, New Prague, Northfield and Red Wing, looking at their options.

Skogerboe said he has been working with the other three schools to try to “save” the Missota. The most promising scenario, which had Simley, Henry Sibley and South St. Paul leaving the Classic Suburban Conference, appears to have fallen through.

With that in mind, Skogerboe presented board members with an application he has prepared for the school to apply to a new conference. He explained that there are basically two options, going north to the new conference being formed by Chaska and Chanhassen, or going south to become part of the Big Nine Conference. He said Red Wing has already applied to the Big Nine and Northfield is expected to do so as well. Both are former members of the Big Nine. Holy Angels is pursuing membership in the Tri-Metro Conference.

Big Nine The Big Nine is currently a 10-school conference with schools in seven cities in south eastern and south central Minnesota. The largest school is Rochester Mayo (with an MSHSL enrollment of 1,506) and the smallest is Mankato East (784). New Prague’s enrollment of 1,111 would put them in the middle of the conference enrollmentwise. Distance-wise, Faribault, is closest at 35 miles away, while Winona is the farthest at 120 miles.

Skogerboe said he has prepared a list of positives and negatives for each of the two options. For the Big Nine, the positives include similar-size schools and programs, including a strong emphasis on fine arts programs, and while the travel distances are longer, they are also more definite because of lack of metro traffic.

Negatives include the travel distance and the fact that many parents work in the Twin Cities and would have difficulty getting to away games.

New conference Chaska and Chanhassen began work to form a new conference last spring, and Skogerboe said he expects an announcement in early March for the new conference. The seven schools are from the Missota, North Suburban, South Suburban and Classic Suburban. Unable to find an eighth school, theconference will start with seven members, but could add more after it is formed.

Skogerboe listed advantages such as shorter travel distance and a Metro exposure. Among the disadvantages are what he perceived as a lesser emphasis on fine arts and some schools having no teams or cooperatives teams in some sports such as wrestling, girls hockey and gymnastics. In addition, there would be a possibility that a private school could be placed in the conference.

There is no set application process for conferences. The Big Nine requires a unanimous vote to admit new schools. Skogerboe said the new conference would require a simple majority. Either way, there is no assurance that New Prague would be admitted to either conference.

Other alternatives Skogerboe said the only other alternative would be the South Suburban Conference, but he didn’t believe New Prague would be competitive in that league. New Prague would be the smallest school in that conference by about 400 students.

If a high school applies to three conferences and is rejected by each, the school would have the option of appealing to the Minnesota State High School League to be placed in a conference. The league would hold a hearing with the school making its case and the three conferences making theirs, then the league would place New Prague in a conference.

The school’s coaching staff is split close to 50-50 on their preferences between the two options. The Missota Conference will remain intact for the 2013-14 school year, but Skogerboe said he would like to get things finalized in the next month or two, in order to get started on scheduling for the 2014-15 school year. He said he would keep the board posted on developments.

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