CIML departure could boost participation in Ames sports, district leaders say
Potential conference change would take effect next school year
To get more students to participate in sports, Ames Community School District officials want to give those student-athletes more of a fighting chance against their competitors by leaving the Central Iowa Metropolitan League for a proposed new conference.
Ames Superintendent Jenny Risner will bring before the district's school board March 22 a resolution to leave the CIML for what's for now being referred to as the "Big Ten Conference," though Risner said more than 10 schools have shown interest in the idea and she expected another name would emerge from meetings.
As listed in the information shared Monday night with the Ames School Board, the Big Ten would include Ames, Fort Dodge, Mason City, Marshalltown, Ottumwa and Des Moines Roosevelt, Hoover, North, East and Lincoln.
The schools that may join the proposed new conference are looking for equity — to leave behind larger suburban schools in CIML, including Waukee, West Des Moines Valley, Johnston, Southeast Polk and Ankeny — in order to make things more competitive for their student-athletes.
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Risner and Ames Athletic Director Judge Johnston said there's been a continuing decline in participation in Ames, a trend that's lasted several years.
"The mission of public education is to get kids participating," Risner said.
“Kids like to experience some success," she said. "It’s hard to go out night after night and compete with schools that are beating us on a regular basis."
Johnston told the Tribune earlier Monday that enrollment growth at large suburban schools outpaces growth in Ames "by leaps and bounds," and that means those schools have advantages in the size of the pool of students they form teams from and in program offerings.
“They’re just going to have to play each other more," he said of what the remaining schools in CIML would have to do — though there would still be crossover between the two conferences, especially when Big Ten teams would want to play the suburban schools.
There are still some scheduling requirements of the Iowa High School Athletic Association and Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union that would have to be satisfied.
Johnston also said schools in the Big Ten could play each other more often, maybe twice a season instead of once.
He said a decision to join the Big Ten would not be a long-term one, but one likely to be revisited in three, four or five years. Any changes approved in the coming weeks would take effect in the 2022-23 school year.
The superintendents of the new conference would draft a joint letter to inform CIML of their decision by April 1.
Phillip Sitter covers education for the Ames Tribune, including Iowa State University and PreK-12 schools in Ames and elsewhere in Story County. Phillip can be reached via email at email@example.com. He is on Twitter @pslifeisabeauty.