That's a total of 12 schools, too many for one conference obviously. But it's doubtful all 12 of those schools would want to form a new conference.
One school that everyone has forgotten about around the B-B-E area where I come from is West Central Area, who the Jaguars have played in football for the season opener the past 2 seasons. They are badly in need of a new conference and would jump in a heartbeat if something opened up.
High contenders who I feel would definitely pursue the feasibility are the following schools. These schools have big budget problems, as well as plenty of unhappiness about their current conference affiliation =
West Central Area, B-B-E, Minnewaska Area, Sauk Centre, Long Prairie-Grey Eagle, Paynesville Area. That's 6 schools all within a reasonable driving distance. (longest trip, Paynesville to West Central Area, which is 70 miles.
Numerous neighborhood rivalries that already exist would continue. Right now you've got Minnewaska running down to Highway 212 to Granite Falls and Olivia. You have West Central Area driving up to Roseau and Warroad in football! Paynesville is peddling down to Montevideo/Granite/Olivia. B-B-E is driving clear down to the Metro Area (Rockford) and up to Pierz. Sauk Centre is driving over to Milaca and Mora. LP-GE is having big budget issues, as is West Central Area. I could go on and on and the problems these schools have with their current conference affiliations.
I think a core of B-B-E, Sauk Centre, Paynesville Area, Minnewaska Area, West Central Area, Long Prairie-Grey Eagle...that gets you 6 schools, which is a good place to start. Then throw in Holdingford and Osakis, and you're suddenly at 8 schools, which is a perfect number for a conference!
Another long trip wouldn't be terrible, Holdingford to West Central Area...also about 70-80 miles...80 if you take I-94, which means 43 miles of easy interstate driving from the Freeport exit to northwest of Alexandria... Or Benson to Holdingford, 82 miles and a 90-minute drive. They'd be worst-case scenarios, if Benson wanted to plug out of the West Central South Conference. I don't see that happening, since they've got nice neighborhood rivalries with Lac qui Parle Valley, Montevideo, and Yellow Medicine East (Granite Falls).
I think it absolutely would work, with the biggest schools being Minnewaska and Sauk Centre, with B-B-E and Osakis at the bottom of the list.
Even a Melrose or Sauk Centre to West Central Area trip would not be bad at all, just a skip up I-94 to the Alexandria area, and then jump over on Highway 28 to Hoffman/Barrett. The trip from Melrose to the West Central Area High School (in Barrett) would be 60 miles, in a very easy trip.
Currently, Holdingford travels 70 miles to Rockford, and 61 miles down to Howard Lake. Even if Morris Area and Holdingford were anchoring the west and east sides of this new conference, that trip would be about 75 miles. (And Holdingford would play a team that they are in for most post-season pairings.)
Right now Melrose has an 80-mile trip to Mora, an ugly, ugly, ugly trip around or through the St.Cloud area. It's madness if you ask me, especially when better options exist.
School boards/Athletic Directors of the above-mentioned schools need to get a discussion going. It's something that could happen for the 2010-2011 athletic season, if agreements are made during the summer of 2009.
It's time to put the taxpayers first, and give them the respect they deserve, in a time when most schools are regularly begging them for more property tax money. Athletic rivalries should be local, trips to your children's games should be local.
Gas won't always be around the $2 mark! We saw firsthand that obvious fact in 2008.
Write down this list and think about it, look at the similarities in enrollment, geography, and economic makeup. It's mostly a group of schools with light industry and small farms.
West Central Area, Morris Area, B-B-E, Osakis, Sauk Centre, Long Prairie-Grey Eagle, Paynesville Area, Minnewaska, Holdingford. (That's 9 schools)
How about...the "Dairy Star Conference"???? It would be a nice tip of the hat towards all the hard working farmers that build the backbone of our rural communities.
Sounds good to me!