With FVC offer already on table, Burlington Central also explores joining NIB12

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Burlington Central's Michael Kalusa shoots against Chicago King during the Plano Christmas Classic on Dec 28. Burlington Central's school board is set to vote on a proposal to join the Fox Valley Conference on Tuesday, but the school also is exploring a potential move to the Northern Illinois Big 12.[]

Burlington Central found a potential landing spot last month when the Fox Valley Conference invited it to become the league’s 10th member in the 2019-20 school year.

The District 301 school board heard a presentation from Principal Chris Testone at its December meeting and plans were made for the board to vote on that invitation at Tuesday’s meeting.

Since then, another suitor has come calling.

The Northern Illinois Big 12, which recently lost half its membership to a new conference with schools from the Interstate Eight Conference, issued an invitation in December for Burlington to join.

Principals and athletic directors from the five remaining NIB12 schools – DeKalb, Kaneland, Sterling, Sycamore and Yorkville – will meet with Testone and Burlington AD Steve Diversey at 10 a.m. Friday at DeKalb High School.

Testone was uncertain what the meeting will hold for his school’s future.

“I really don’t know what I’ll learn (Friday),” he said. “I went to a meeting to hear about their conference (NIB12) in December. At that point, there were a lot of possibilities and what a conference could look like. It wasn’t just us being considered, it was Plano and Sandwich (too). So it would be difficult for me to do anything different at this point until I learn more.”

DeKalb athletic director Nic Kearfott said the remaining five NIB12 schools (the conference played in two five-team divisions for football this season) were excited about the possibility of bringing in Burlington as a sixth member.

“If something worked out, we’d love for the five of us to get them and try to build off of that,” Kearfott said. “The ball’s in Burlington Central’s court. We just hope that we’re not too late because they were planning on having the board vote on the FVC on Tuesday.”

Burlington, with an enrollment of 1,049, is the largest school in the Kishwaukee River Conference. The other six KRC schools voted in June, 5-1, with Johnsburg the only dissenting vote, to push Burlington out after the 2018-19 school year. The KRC schools feared Burlington, which projects to reach more than 1,300 students within a few years, would be too big. The four smallest KRC schools – Johnsburg, Harvard, Marengo and Richmond-Burton – have 727 students or fewer.

Burlington won the inaugural KRC Cup for best overall boys and girls sports last year.

“Our considerations from the point when we got voted out of the KRC was three-focus,” Testone said. “We were looking for stability, better travel than we’ve had in the KRC or before, and we’re looking for a good level of competition moving into the future. Being the fact that we’re a growing school, we want to be in a competitive conference moving forward.”

The FVC, which started in the 1978-79 school year, offers stability, but Burlington would enter the league with about 400 fewer students than the next-smallest school.

The NIB12 lines up better in enrollment – Burlington would be the fifth-largest school, but could move up to third in a few years.

Both conferences fit well geographically.

Kearfott said the NIB12 athletic directors have informally talked with Burlington for months.

“We still feel they fit well with our conference enrollmentwise, with geography, competitiveness,” Kearfott said. “They’d be a good fit. I really hope we can get them. I just don’t know with the timeline where they’re at, what we’re going to be able to do.”

Testone said the District 301 board typically receives information on matters at one board meeting then takes action in the next month’s meeting. The NIB12 has set a deadline of March to find a sixth member school.

“Right now, what’s on the (Tuesday) agenda is for the board to take action on the invitation that came from the Fox Valley (Conference),” Testone said. “We went to the board in December with information, at that time it was our only invite, so we recommended to the board to accept the invite.”

Burlington may have more to consider after Friday’s meeting.