South Tama County's divorce with the WaMaC Conference has officially become a re-marriage.
The Trojans split from the conference back in 2006 to join the Little Hawkeye Conference and have been playing in the North Iowa Cedar League since 2011. But late Friday, the South Tama County School District received formal notification from WaMaC Conference chairperson Kristen Rickey, making the move back to their former conference the finalization in a long voting process.
"The letter also indicated the WaMaC Conference will allow South Tama to join in the 2013-14 school year if the NICL allows them to do so," South Tama County Superintendent Kerri Nelson said. "STC Schools has accepted invitation and has made the decision to join the WaMaC starting with the 2014-15 school year. This will allow the district to provide adequate notice to the NICL so they can in turn find a replacement and schedule accordingly."
The NICL had just gotten its league to 16 teams to make two eight-team divisions. Waterloo Columbus Catholic will exit the WaMaC (named for the Wapsipinicon, Maquoketa and Cedar Rivers) after this school year to join the NICL. But now, South Tama County will force the NICL to find another 16th member after 2014-15.
Nelson told the T-R at the beginning of the acceptance process that South Tama County was not actively looking to leave the NICL. But she said the move to the WaMaC would help with the sub-varsity athletic programs and also would be a better move for the fine arts department.
"There are benefits to participating in the NICL and the WaMaC Conference," said Nelson. "The Board did make a formal decision to pursue the opportunity with the WaMaC. One reason the Board made the decision to accept is to help our middle school teams have more opportunities, which will contribute to the long term success of the overall program."
It is the third time South Tama County has decided to change conference affiliations since first leaving the WaMaC back in 2006.
"The South Tama School Board made the decision to accept the invitation to the WaMaC knowing the history of the conference changes," Nelson said. "There are some advantages in participating in the both conferences. Besides having more opportunities in athletics, the students also will have more opportunities in fine arts."
The WaMaC will play this next school year with just 15 teams in the conference - a full eight in the East Division and just seven in the West Division.
South Tama County will be the eighth member to the West Division at the start of the 2014-15 school year. The other schools in the West Division include Benton Community, Center Point-Urbana, Clear-Creek Amana, Independence, Marion, Vinton-Shellsburg and Williamsburg. Waterloo Columbus will compete in the West Division through this school year.
The East Division includes Anamosa, Central Clinton of DeWitt, Dyersville-Beckman, Maquoketa, Mount Vernon, Solon, West Delaware and Western Dubuque.
When the WaMaC was searching for a replacement for Waterloo Columbus, it reached out to South Tama County, Oelwein and Union of LaPorte City. Only South Tama County expressed any interest, according to West Deleware Athletic Director Bob Murphy.
The WaMaC Conference needed a "yes" vote from nine of the 15 athletic directors of the other schools. Murphy said back in mid-January that he didn't think getting the votes would be an issue. He turned out to be right.
"I am glad that they are coming in," Murphy said of South Tama County. "They are right at what most of our schools' population is and their location fits, too."
The Trojans were one of the largest schools in the NICL and had been very competitive athletically in recent years.
In the WaMaC, South Tama County will be the third smallest school, with only Williamsburg and Center Point-Urbana having smaller enrollments, according to Nelson.
The exit out of the NICL by South Tama County will force the league to find yet another replacement. Waterloo Columbus is entering the league this next school year to fill the void left by the closing of NU High.
"I am disappointed because we had just gotten the west and east sides of the NICL even with eight teams," said Kevin Wurzer, who is president of the NICL. "This will once again cause scheduling problems. I wish (STC) luck in the WaMaC.
"We are excited about Waterloo Columbus coming into the NICL. They will bring a solid 2A school to the league and a new middle school will help in the scheduling of middle school contests."
The NICL will have 16 teams in it in the 2013-14 school year. The process to find South Tama's replacement is officially underway though.