Administrators in the Little Okaw Valley Conference don't know what the future holds, but they want to be prepared for the possibilities.
The LOVC, which already added three schools effective for the start of the 2014-15 school year, has invited principals from the nine departing Okaw Valley Conference schools to a Monday morning meeting in Arthur.
"There is no agenda. We have no formal proposal," LOVC vice president Eric Bruder said. "If nobody shows, it doesn't matter. We've lost nothing, and we've put our intention out there that we'd like to expand."
Bruder, the principal at Bethany's Okaw Valley High School, believes it's better to be proactive and start the process now rather than wait until alternatives may be more limited.
"We will have 10 teams (for football, starting in 2014), but we are looking at long-term ramifications, all of which we can't predict," Bruder said. "There is a move toward (school) consolidation. The state is implementing some policies that might force schools to look at consolidation.
"If we can expand the conference, why wouldn't we? We had to send letters to gauge the interest.
"If they are interested, we want to open the dialogue."
Meridian Principal Jack Blickensderfer, whose high school is one of the nine planning to leave the Okaw Valley Conference once the 2013-14 school year ends, is unsure about the timing of the Monday gathering.
"We have to take care of the conference we're in first; we have to take care of forming a new conference," he said. "We have to speak with one voice, but we can't do that until a new conference is formed, which we won't have until all of the school board meetings take place in the next two to three weeks."
The nine schools that intend to leave the current 12-team Okaw need to receive approval from their respective school boards, which is expected to occur for most at their October meetings. Thus, the schools that plan to leave cannot yet create a league of their own.
"After something is formed, we can vote on things and see what direction we want to take," Blickensderfer said.
Bruder and the LOVC don't plan to remain on the sidelines.
"I'm sure there will be other schools we contact as far as expansion," Bruder said.
"We have an administrative council at the LOVC that is progressive and open to expansion."
The first step is to see if the departing Okaw Valley Conference schools would consider collectively joining forces.
"We know they have a time frame to get things together," Bruder said. "This is a conference in flux. Our point is, if you're looking to expansion, talk to us. If they are interested, we want to open the dialogue."
The current football-playing schools in the LOVC are Arcola, Arthur-Lovington, Cerro Gordo, East Central (Heritage and Shiloh co-op), Martinsville, Tri-County and Villa Grove. When the 2014 season starts, they will be joined by Decatur Lutheran, Oblong and Sangamon Valley.
The schools planning to leave the OVC are Argenta-Oreana, Central A&M, Clinton, Decatur St. Teresa, Meridian, Shelbyville, Sullivan, Tuscola and Warrensburg-Latham.