By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Nevada High School’s five-year search for a conference is over.
The West Central Conference, in a unanimous vote of its superintendents, admitted Nevada on Tuesday as the league’s seventh member. Because the next school year is the second year of a two-year scheduling cycle, Nevada’s membership is effective for the 2014-15 school year.
“It’s a good day in Nevada. That’s for sure,” Nevada athletics director Kevin McKinley said. “We can start competing for conference honors and conference championships the year after next. That’s a positive thing.”
“It’s been a long time coming,” Nevada superintendent David Stephens said. “We are very excited. We looked at several options, but we started in earnest visiting with individuals involved with the West Central Conference about a year ago.”
The league consists of three Kansas City schools plus Clinton, Warrensburg and Sedalia Smith-Cotton.
“Travel is a little farther than what it would have been in the Big 8,” McKinley said. “We’ve played a number of these schools on our independent schedule. We’ve played Warrensburg, Clinton, Sedalia, Kansas City Center. We’ve played O’Hara a number of times in the past as part of our football district. The only school we haven’t competed against in the last 26 years is St. Pius in Kansas City.”
Nevada has been looking for a league since the Southwest Conference disbanded in May 2008 when Webb City, Carthage and Neosho joined the Central Ozark Conference. Nevada’s first choice was to return to the Big 8 Conference, but that wasn’t going to happen.
“We knew we had exhausted our efforts with the Big 8,” McKinley said. “We had applied and been rejected four different times since 2007 and gone through the MSHSAA appeals process. I graduated from Nevada in 1982, and we were a member of the original Big 8 that dates back to 1920. We were a member of the Big 8 up until 1983, and that’s why we had a desire to go back to that once the Southwest Conference dissolved. We wanted to go back to our traditional opponents like Mount and Aurora and Cassville and those folks, but it was not meant to be.”
The league search then shifted toward the north.
“Since 2007, we had applied or been rejected by the Central Ozark Conference, the Show-Me West Conference, which eventually disbanded. The West Central Conference denied us one time back in 2007, and the Missouri River Valley Conference, the same conference Harrisonville is in. We attempted to try to create a conference four different times with McDonald County and area schools.”
By joining a conference, McKinley’s task of filling schedules becomes easier.
“It was a load (filling schedules as an independent),” McKinley said. “Trying to schedule games, especially basketball games in February when most schools are in the middle of conference play, was a real difficulty.
“I had a number of ADs, including ADs from the Big 8 Conference and all southwest Missouri area schools our size, who showed a lot of mercy on us and tried to help us fill our schedule. I was lucky enough to fill our schedules 99.3 percent — five open dates in the last five years in our seven major team sports. If I hadn’t had that assistance from fellow ADs, our kids really would have suffered.”
West Central Conference
Enrollments for West Central Conference schools, according to the MSHSAA:
Sedalia Smith-Cotton 1,320
Kansas City Center 674
Kansas City St. Pius X 524
Kansas City O’Hara 478