Mt Pleasant News
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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 18, 2018

SEC expansion? Burlington approved

Southeast Conference athletic directors approve Grayhounds, waiting on word from MAC
Mar 26, 2018
MPN file photo Mt. Pleasant’s Taylor Murray is guarded by Burlington’s Emily Murphy in a non-conference girls’ basketball game this winter. The Panthers won that game, 57-52.

By Andy Krutsinger, Mt. Pleasant News

 

The Southeast Conference may be getting a little bigger in 2019. The Fairfield Ledger reported on Friday that Burlington High School has requested to join the conference.

According to the Ledger’s report, Burlington Athletic Director Zach Shay, Principal David Keane and Superintendent Pat Coen began discussing the option in 2017, citing dropping enrollment as a reason for moving out to the SEC.

The Grayhounds are currently in the Mississippi Athletic Conference, where they compete against Bettendorf, Clinton, Muscatine, North Scott, Pleasant Valley and four Davenport teams (Assumption, Central, North and West).

The SEC is currently made up of five schools of comparible sizes. Mt. Pleasant is currently the school with the highest BEDS count (a three-grade range), at 477. Washington sits at 445, Ft. Madison at 423, Keokuk at 414 and Fairfield at 375. By comparison, Burlington’s BEDS number is at 832.

Mt. Pleasant Athletic Director (AD) Scot Lamm said Friday that the SEC athletic directors have aproved Burlington and this has been shared with all school boards besides Ft. Madison, where the subject is on the April agenda. Lamm says Burlington will be meeting with the MAC to see when it can leave the conference, and that it is “very likely” that Burlington will join the conference in the Fall of 2019.

In Friday’s story in the Ledger, three other athletic directors expressed their support. Fairfield AD Jeff Courtright, Keokuk AD Zach Summers and Washington AD Brent VanWeelden each listed positives of the potential move.

SEC teams would have an easier time making schedules if Burlington were to join the conference. It would give teams less non-conference games to schedule, as Burlington would automatically be playing the same number of conference games as everybody else.

Travel would also be a factor for everyone involved. Burlington is roughly 45 minutes from Keokuk, 32 minutes from Mt. Pleasant and 25 minutes from Ft. Madison.

The trips from Burlington to Fairfield and Washington are closer to the one hour mark, but those wouldn’t be the longest trips for either team. Both teams go over an hour to play Keokuk and Ft. Madison.

Competitive-wise, the move will effect each sport differently. For example, two of Mt. Pleasant’s best sports in recent memory have been boys’ basketball and girls’ softball. The Burlington boys’ basketball team went 0-22 this season, including a 53-36 loss to third-place Ft. Madison in their only game against an SEC opponent. But on the softball field, the Grayhounds were 22-18, and finished 3-3 against SEC teams, including a sweep of eventual state-tournament qualifier Mt. Pleasant.

If Burlington does officially make the move, it may entice others to join the conference. According to sources close to Ottumwa athletics, the Bulldogs have said they would only join the SEC if Burlington did, but isn’t currently interested. Although Burlington’s move makes Ottumwa a more likely addition, it may take a realignment from the Central Iowa Metropolitan League to get the switch done. According to the source, Ottumwa fears leaving the CIML would net scheduling problems with current CIML foes in the future.

Burlington and Ottumwa were part of the original SEC, then called the “Little Six,” with Fairfield, Washington, Mt. Pleasant and Muscatine rounding out the conference. Both teams left the conference in 1958. Ottumwa came back from 1973-1998, but Burlington hasn’t rejoined since the 1958...at least not yet.

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