PBL ponders Okaw Valley invitation

PBL ponders Okaw Valley invitation

The invitation Paxton-Buckley-Loda athletic director John Overstreet was expecting came.

With the Okaw Valley Conference losing Maroa-Forsyth to the Sangamo Conference in two years, PBL was the target to fill that void, and Overstreet said PBL received the official invite Monday afternoon to join the conference for the 2016-17 school year.

“When Maroa was talking about this in the springtime before they officially left, we kind of knew it was coming,” Overstreet said. “We’re definitely going to give it serious consideration. We’re still committed to the (Sangamon Valley Conference), but obviously we’re going to discuss it administratively, and our board is going to discuss it at the August board meeting, and then we’ll discuss it with our coaches after that.”

The decision to accept or decline the Okaw invitation will be made by September.

“That’s kind of the time frame that the Okaw wanted was a decision from us in September,” Overstreet said. “From talking to my superintendent, we can handle making the decision one way or another by then.”

Okaw president Brian Brooks said conference officials met Monday and thought PBL was the right choice for the conference.

“PBL is the only invite we have sent out,” the St. Joseph-Ogden principal said. “Our group unanimously felt that PBL is the No. 1 school of interest.”

PBL was involved in early discussions when the 12-team Okaw was fracturing two years ago. In July 2012, Maroa-Forsyth, Unity, Monticello, Clinton and Decatur St. Teresa were told the seven other member schools would leave the conference. Invitations were sent at that time to PBL, St. Joseph-Ogden, St. Thomas More, Eureka and Olympia.

Ultimately, Clinton and St. Teresa joined the defecting Okaw members to form the Central Illinois Conference and only St. Joseph-Ogden and St. Thomas More accepted the Okaw invitation.

With schools like Eureka and Olympia no longer part of the current equation, Overstreet said that makes the decision-making process a little different this time.

“The most obvious positive of the Okaw is the travel — the Champaign-based travel,” he said. “That’s why they invited us. On the other side, the Sangamon Valley, we’re the longest member in the Sangamon Valley since 1990 or 1991. There’s a lot of tradition, a lot of similar-size schools.”

Brooks said PBL was a good fit for the Okaw.

“They have strong athletic programs, a strong administration, very supportive community and are similar in size to the other five schools,” Brooks said. “We have wanted PBL involved in this conference from Day 1.”

Brooks said PBL’s location was a huge plus for the conference and one of the reasons the invitation was extended.

“I can’t speak for PBL, but the distance between PBL and Maroa probably did not make much sense for them in most sports a couple years ago,” he said. “We are hoping that with the potential of this being a Champaign-based league now with very little travel for each school, it will be more appealing this time around.”

Brooks said conference officials did not discuss inviting any other schools. If PBL declines the invitation the officials would meet again and discuss additional schools.

Nora Maberry-Daniels of The Leader contributed to this report.

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