School board members at Rossville-Alvin will face a major decision soon. Should they renew the girls'' basketball cooperative agreement with Bismarck-Henning for two more years, or should they try to field a team of their own again? The last time they tried the latter route, for the 1998-99 season, more than a dozen girls expressed interest in playing. But when it came time to practice, not enough girls to make a starting lineup were present, and the season was forfeited. It has been five years since Rossville-Alvin had its own girls'' basketball team. A critical decision The feeling here is that if the interest is plentiful, it''s best for schools to field their own teams. The Rossville-Alvin situation, however, presents an interesting and extremely difficult dilemma. The school has one of the area''s top junior basketball players, guard Jill Haas. If R-A makes the decision to go solo and then next November realizes there''s not enough girls to play basketball, Haas will be out of luck. The question now facing board members at R-A is whether they go with the sure thing, a two-year renewal of the cooperative agreement with Bismarck-Henning, or take a chance that after the split, the teen-agers who currently express an interest in playing will follow through. In the interest of scheduling games, a decision needs to be made within a couple of months, well before the IHSA''s Oct. 1 deadline for winter-sport cooperatives to be finalized. If R-A drops the cooperative agreement, it might not be viewed as a popular move by many Sangamon Valley Conference members. With the league currently playing a full round-robin format, the other 12 SVC members would be obligated to work R-A into the schedule, which would force many to drop lucrative nonconference opponents in order to avoid being over the IHSA limit on games. With the impending departure of Uni High, some schools still might be seeking games, but others have already filled those dates. Student-athletes at Rossville-Alvin already face something of an identity crisis. In some sports (such as football, golf and track and field), the school joins forces with Armstrong-Potomac. In other sports (such as wrestling), the school teams up with Hoopeston Area, where some students are bused daily for such classes as French, woodworking, nursing and physical education. In other sports (such as girls'' basketball and softball), R-A has a cooperative deal with Bismarck-Henning. In some sports (such as volleyball, boys'' basketball and baseball) R-A operates independently. And in some sports (such as boys'' and girls'' cross-country), the school has a three-way deal with both B-H and A-P. Rossville-Alvin, with an enrollment of 115, should be commended for making ample opportunities available to its student-athletes, but it also should tread cautiously when it considers whether to abolish a cooperative agreement. It would be terrible for anyone to miss the chance to play, but it would be especially bad for someone with Haas'' talent and skill level to be forced to sit idly after three years of competition. It would be a shame to see her become a player without a team. The question lingers When the matter is settled for next year, it still won''t be the last you hear of it. One of R-A''s top freshmen female basketball players is Kayla Foster, who has established herself this year as one of the top seven varsity players for the B-H/R-A cooperative. Because the IHSA mandates the length of coop agreements at two years, the issue will resurface before Foster''s senior year. Again, there could be a decision similar to the one now if the coop gets renewed through 2005. As for the interest in girls'' basketball at R-A, this year five students are traveling to B-H to participate. Perhaps what is needed is the attitude taken by other area districts such as Catlin and Jamaica, which formed the all-sport coop known as Salt Fork, and Cissna Park and Crescent-Iroquois, which has the all-sport CPCI coop. Those schools have worked together in harmony and plan to continue doing so in the future. If R-A didn''t have so many different partners, maybe it could find one that would be compatible for all its needs. Fred Kroner is a News-Gazette staff writer. He writes a weekly column throughout the school year on prep athletics.