It finally happened.
After months of speculation, the dissolution of the DuPage Valley Conference as we know it became complete with last week's announcement -- detailed exclusively in the Daily Herald -- that four schools will be leaving after the 2017-18 school year to form the DuKane Conference with four schools from the Upstate Eight Conference.
Just writing that seems odd.
This week's Eyes on Five looks sadly at how we got here and optimistically at where we're headed.
1. Expect the expected:
To recap last week's big news, Glenbard North, Lake Park, Wheaton North and Wheaton Warrenville South are leaving the DVC after the 2017-18 school year to form the eight-team DuKane Conference with Batavia, Geneva, St. Charles East and St. Charles North.
The exodus was born in 2015 when Metea Valley, Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley joined the DVC. Glenbard North, Wheaton North and WW South suddenly faced a growing disparity in enrollments while Lake Park suddenly faced much longer road trips in a conference that looked nothing like the one it thought it was joining in 2013.
From that moment on, the historic core of the DVC drifted into scary waters.
It feels like this separation happened awfully fast, especially with the Wheaton schools being original DVC members. But in reality, it became an inevitability as soon as Neuqua Valley's 3,700 students entered the mix.
We can debate whether or not this is a football-based decision. Or if it's a shortsighted move based on temporary athletic struggles. Or if it all moved way too fast and without enough input.
At this point, though, it's irrelevant. The bottom line is it's happening.
2. Picking up the pieces:
In a conversation I had Saturday with Metea Valley principal Darrell Echols, the president of the DVC, he expressed confidence in the league's ability to add the schools necessary to bolster its remaining group of five into a solid conference of eight.
Echols said invitations have been issued to three schools, although he declined to name the schools out of respect for their needs to sort out the pros and cons of such a big move.
The three schools, however, are pretty clear.
Bolingbrook, Oswego and Oswego East appear to be the likely targets. All three make sense for the DVC (if we still call it the DVC) but, like everything else with conference shuffling, it all comes down to the DVC making sense for the three schools.
If you look at a map, the eight schools form a tight square from Aurora to Naperville to Bolingbrook to Oswego. While Bolingbrook and Neuqua Valley are each over 3,500 students, the other six schools are all between 2,500 and 2,900.
On paper it looks like a natural fit. For the DVC's sake (if we still call it the DVC), let's hope it works out.
3. Moving out, moving on:
Get used to saying "The DuKane Conference."
With enrollments ranging between about 2,000 and 2,600 students, the eight schools match up in size and proximity. There will be disgruntled parties to be sure -- count me among the many souls unhappy about the demise of the DVC -- but we'll end up with a pretty amazing conference once the dust settles.
The group of Batavia, Geneva, Glenbard North, Lake Park, St. Charles East, St. Charles North, Wheaton North and WW South will have no trouble forming an athletic identity. Rivalries already exist, and rivalries will quickly bloom.
Football may or may not be the main instigator for this move, but the strength of the DKC will be the depth and diversity in all sports. Based on their athletic histories, each of the eight will wind up hoisting their fair share of conference championship hardware.
In terms of football, it'll be a competitive Class 7A-heavy league. Lake Park and St. Charles East will be battle-tested in Class 8A.
And an eight-team conference means nonconference games for the first two weeks of the season. Does that open a window for the Napervilles and Wheatons to continue playing in the future?
Anything's possible, but don't hold your breath.
4. Semi mess:
How about the end of that Plainfield North-Fenwick game on Saturday?
I'll try to make a long story short. Plainfield North was awarded an 18-17 overtime victory over Fenwick in last week's Class 7A semifinals, although the IHSA acknowledged later that Fenwick should have been declared the winner in regulation because a rule was interpreted wrong by officials.
Citing association bylaws, the IHSA ruled it would not step in and reverse the decision. Plainfield North, the IHSA declared, would remain the victor and play East St. Louis for the Class 7A title in Champaign.
But hold everything.
On Monday, Fenwick announced it was taking the IHSA to court in hopes of reversing the decision. A judge will hear the case Wednesday morning.
Where does that leave everyone? We can assume Fenwick and Plainfield North are both practicing for East St. Louis. I guess we also can assume that East St. Louis traded game film with Fenwick and Plainfield North.
Because a ruling isn't expected until three days before the game, the situation leaves everyone in an unfair predicament -- especially East St. Louis, which had nothing to do with this debacle.
It's tough enough preparing a game plan for one opponent, but now the Flyers have to spend the bulk of the week prepping for two opponents. Fenwick and Plainfield North are in a bad spot as well, but at least they know who they'd play.
It's a bad, uncomfortable situation for all involved. And no matter who plays East St. Louis on Saturday, it's never going to be ideal.
5. Stat time:
After 14 weeks this wraps up another season of Eyes on Five columns.
I've enjoyed every minute of trying to bring you the inside scoops and anecdotes from DuPage County football. Needless to say, it's been eventful.
This edition might wrap up the football season, but not Eyes on Five.
Stay tuned because Daily Herald colleague Orrin Schwarz will soon join the fray again as we bring you the boys and girls basketball version of Eyes on Five.
Thanks for reading!
Follow Kevin on Twitter@kevin_schmit