Big 8 Conference eyes expansion, COC could be fractured

Big 8 Conference eyes expansion, COC could be fractured

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Big 8 Conference eyes expansion, COC could be fractured

If five school boards give the ‘OK,’ southwest Missouri’s Big 8 Conference will look more like the Big 14 by the end of the next academic year.

The Big 8 Conference could soon expand to add six additional high schools in 2018, including Springfield Catholic and Reeds Spring.

The Big 8 Conference could soon expand to add six additional high schools in 2018, including Springfield Catholic and Reeds Spring.

Multiple high school athletic directors and board of education documents confirm Springfield Catholic, Rogersville, Reeds Spring, Marshfield, Hollister and Nevada are all reported to have been invited to join the existing Big 8 Conference of Aurora, Mt. Vernon, Monett, Cassville, Lamar, East Newton, McDonald County and Seneca.

Thirteen athletic directors met on Nov. 30 to consider expanding the Big 8, according to a document drafted by Aurora athletic director Rob Brown submitted to the Aurora Board of Education at a meeting Dec. 2. In addition to eight Big 8 athletic directors, officials from Rogersville, Hollister, Marshfield, Nevada and Reeds Spring attended.

“All the non-conference AD’s confirmed their school’s commitment to entering the Big 8,” Brown wrote. “An unofficial straw vote selected Springfield Catholic over Bolivar for the sixth school to be considered.”

Brown outlined plans for the conference to have two divisions: an East Division consisting of Marshfield, Rogersville, Aurora, Reeds Spring, Springfield Catholic, Hollister and Mt. Vernon, and a West Division of McDonald County, Monett, Nevada, Cassville, East Newton, Seneca and Lamar.

At least one school district is ready to make the move. The Nevada Board of Education held a special meeting on Monday and voted to withdraw from the West Central Conference in order to join the Big 8 at the start of the 2018-2019 academic year.

Rogersville Athletic Director Joe Spurlin confirmed that the Wildcats plan to leave the Central Ozark Conference and join the Big 8. He said he will discuss the move with Rogersville’s school board members at a study session Dec. 8, which could lead to a vote as soon as Dec. 15.

Spurlin said the Big 8 would be a good fit for Rogersville’s sports teams.

“There are a lot of schools our size. We play a lot of those schools already, Monett, Mt. Vernon, Cassville and Aurora,” Spurlin said. “It’s a good fit. We play them in a lot of sports.”

Spurlin said the move would be especially helpful in the sports of wrestling, swimming and soccer. Ten of the 14 schools have wrestling teams, which would allow the Big 8 to hold a conference wrestling tournament. The same goes for girls swimming, which would have seven Big 8 teams. Scheduling in soccer, baseball, volleyball, softball and basketball would be made easier.

“The main one that’s going to change obviously is football,” Spurlin said.

Football scheduling discussions among the affected athletic directors could begin as early as January.

At Reeds Spring, a move has not been approved by school board members, but Reeds Spring School District Director of Communications Ben Fisher confirmed that the board would consider changing conferences later this month.

“The Reeds Spring School District is considering an offer to join the Big 8 Conference. Our school board will make the final decision. The board’s next meeting is Wednesday, December 21.”

If five teams leave the Central Ozark Small Division for the Big 8, Bolivar will be the only team remaining in the division. That’s because Buffalo announced plans to form the new Ozark Highlands Conference in 2018 along with Warsaw, El Dorado Springs, Butler, Sherwood and Cole Camp as a football only member.

Bolivar outright won or won a share of the COC Small football championship for the past 14 consecutive seasons.

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