The Mason City School Board Monday night approved making an application for membership in the Northeast Iowa Conference.
The district’s athletics and activities director Barry Andersen says one of the biggest considerations in possibly leaving the Central Iowa Metropolitan League is the amount of travel time currently logged for student-athletes. “Four schools are within an hour and 25 minutes of Mason City, and three are under an hour. When you look at what we’re currently driving, two hours, two hours plus every time we go down to Des Moines, that wears on kids and it lends itself to a much larger travel budget. By reducing that cost, it could be close to a 50% reduction in transportation costs, would definitely help out our budgets.”
Andersen says Mason City already plays a number of Northeast Iowa Conference schools in non-conference contests. “There’s some tough competition. That’s one thing when I was looking for what the best fit for Mason City would be, along with looking at the geographical area, the Northeast Iowa Conference made the most sense as far as a conference that’s already set and that has a long tradition of excellent athletic teams. I know several of the athletic directors, so that led me to have some unofficial conversations with them, and then I had met with all of the Northeast Iowa Conference ADs after our Northeast Iowa AD convention this past fall just to gauge where everyone was at and to let them know that we were interested.”
Andersen says all the conversations he’s had with the athletic directors in the Northeast Iowa Conference have been positive. “I know there’s some skepticism as far as Mason City would be the largest school in the conference. Mason City has changed, our demographics have changed over the last 10 years, we have become a smaller school. Not a lot of kids are out for athletics, and hopefully we’re trying to get those numbers to rise. But by and large, I think people need to stop and think, and if they haven’t followed Mason City athletics, or haven’t followed when we play some of these schools in sports, know that there is a competitive balance in the sports that we play.”
Andersen says just because Mason City would be the largest school in the NEIC if the application is approved wouldn’t mean the Mohawks would automatically be dominant in every sport. “The Northeast Iowa Conference has very good athletic teams, boys and girls, and just because Mason City has a lot of kids to choose from doesn’t mean that all those kids go out for sports. I think by adding Mason City to the to the Northeast Iowa Conference would create a competitive balance across the board in all of our activities.”
Five of the seven superintendents of the Northeast Iowa Conference schools would have to approve Mason City’s application. Andersen says if the application is NOT approved, they will look over different options. “I enjoy working with the other ADs within the CIML, they’re great guys, it is the best competition in the state bar none. But I also listen to the coaches that I work with, the families that I work with, the administrators I work with, and other constituents, because there are other factors that fall into play as well. When they say ‘why are we still here?’ and they give me their reasonings, I just can’t just dismiss all that stuff too. We will cross that bridge when we get to it and we’ll go from there, but I do have a Plan B, and when that happens, I will look at that Plan B and then we will move on.”
The NEIC’s current membership from largest to smallest schools includes Waverly-Shell Rock, Decorah, Charles City, Crestwood, Waukon, Oelwein and New Hampton. Andersen says he’ll submit Mason City’s application Tuesday, with the NEIC superintendents likely to act on it sometime in January.
You can hear our full conversation with Andersen about Mason City’s application to the NEIC by clicking on the audio player below.