A curveball has been thrown. And Marshalltown High School may have to go to plan B. But MHS Activities Director Craig Huegel said plan A may not be completely removed from the discussion.
According to a report by John Naughton of the Des Moines Register, the five Des Moines metro schools announced Friday that they will remain in the current Central Iowa Metropolitan League for at least another two years.
That would delay the plan of those five schools - Lincoln, East, North, Roosevelt and Hoover - along with Marshalltown, Indianola and Ottumwa to break free of the CIML and form their own eight-team conference, which was reported first by the Times-Republican last week.
However, delayed doesn't necessarily mean that the plan is over and done with.
"The CIML schools will meet as a group before the school year to decide what we can do to change the current landscape of the CIML," said Huegel on Friday evening. "If we can't come to an agreement that is best for everyone, I would think the same eight schools could just try to form the new conference in two years as opposed to one."
The original plan was for the eight schools involved in the break to play one more athletic season in the CIML and use that year to transition into the new league starting in 2015-16.
But according to Huegel, Indianola and the five Des Moines schools had second thoughts because of problematic issues with scheduling contracts.
Huegel said schedules for all 19 teams in the current CIML have been set for the next two years. And according to Huegel and Des Moines Public Schools Chief of Schools Matt Smith, the five Des Moines schools didn't want to break those contracts.
"We have athletic schedule contracts with all 19 schools within the CIML for the next two school years," Smith said in a press release given to the Des Moines Register. "We intend to honor those."
But Huegel and Ottumwa Activities Director Tom Kopatich wouldn't say the plan is completely dead. Smith added that the Des Moines schools would consider other options in the future but there was no timeline.
Kopatich told the Times-Republican late Saturday afternoon that his Ottumwa Bulldogs had been invited to join the Southeast Seven Conference, a league the school had previously been a part before joining the CIML in the late 1990s.
Kopatich also said he did not know the five Des Moines schools were going to stay in the CIML for two more years until Friday afternoon. He wasn't shocked but certainly surprised about the latest developments.
"At this point, I don't know what's going to happen," said Kopatich. "We have some options. We could end up accepting the Southeast Seven Conference's invite, we could figure out how to stay in the CIML or we could just do this break in two years as opposed to one.
"We definitely were in favor of the new league, I won't lie about that. We were hoping it would happen. We feel like the carpet has been jerked out from under us. But I don't know the details yet on why things suddenly changed."
Like Marshalltown, Indianola held a community meeting Wednesday to discuss the issue.
Indianola Activities Director Bernie Brueck told the Des Moines Register that his school will continue to serve the needs of its student and then come back in a year to decide its future course.
"We want to slow the process down," Brueck said.
The next step at this point appears to be figuring out if the CIML can be aligned differently and to fit the needs and wishes of all 19 members.
Marshalltown, Ottumwa and Indianola all will take the issue to their respective school boards for a vote Monday.
Huegel said he would meet with MHS Principal Aiddy Phomvisay and MHS Superintendent Dr. Marvin Wade before that meeting to see how the administration wants to handle the voting process, but Huegel expects the Bobcats to remain in the CIML for at least another year.
"At this point, we're not pursuing another plan," Huegel said.
According to Kopatich, there is no reason to overreact.
"We have to look out for what's best for us and right now, I am not sure what that is," Kopatich said. I kind of see the current CIML as two leagues anyway. Not much would really change from our standpoint. The big difference is that Marshalltown would be added, and we'd have more flexibility when it comes to scheduling."
Roundhouse Renovations Update
The Marshalltown Roundhouse renovations are in full swing but don't expect to see any Bobcat volleyball games in there this upcoming season.
Huegel recently told the Times-Republican that all high school volleyball games are expected to be played at the Marshalltown Community College Student Activity Center.
"The last update I got was that the Roundhouse could be ready to go by the end of November," said Huegel. "So there is a strong chance that the basketball and wrestling seasons could be affected, too."
Huegel said the high school basketball teams will play their games at MCC if the renovations are not complete but added that the wrestling meets will likely take place at Miller Middle School.