On The Fence
Bobby Leach "The Rooster" | 12/17/2014, 2:14 p.m.
Last week the Joliet school district announced that both Joliet Central and Joliet West would be leaving the Southwest Suburban Blue Conference and joining the eight team Southwest Prairie Conference starting with the 2016 fall athletic season. I have one word for that move...bravo!
Both schools will be more evenly matched across the board in terms of athletics and frankly Joliet should be focused on competing against a more local based conference. With the addition of both Central and West, the SPC will now have a total of ten schools when you add Romeoville, Plainfield North, South, Central and East, Minooka, Oswego and Oswego East.
Just the drive distance alone has to be a benefit for the Joliet students when you consider football games normally conclude around 10pm, basketball games are similar perhaps 9pm which puts student-athletes and fans back in the school about an hour later and that's if there isn't traffic. In the end, all of these kids are students first and if they aren't able to get home and in bed at a reasonable hour, how does that schedule benefit kids the next morning in class.
This move I think also allows for the schools to appeal to a wider audience, for example. Many of the student athletes in the immediate and surrounding communities grew up together through youth competition and have forged bonds many times that carry over to their high school years. I think personally games are more interesting that way and provide for a continuation of that familiarity.
Another benefit for West and Central, fan participation. The closer the competition, the more likely both schools will see a traveling fan base for away games that don't take an hour in drive time just to get there. On the flip side, more opposing team fan bases will attend Joliet home games which helps with ticket sales and concessions returns.
All in all I think personally this is a great plan and will prove to be a better experience for everyone involved as long as the IHSA doesn't squash the deal with a new conference of their own that while still somewhat cloudy may be the next big change when it comes to football competitions.