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New Lake Conference alignment shelved...for now

On a typical evening, Rosemount sports teams can be stretched out across the metro area competing against their fellow Lake Conference teams.

The girls basketball team might be making the 34-mile trip to Chaska, while the wrestling team is traveling 27 miles to Eden Prairie.

If District 196 school superintendent John Currie had his way, the conference trips would have been a lot shorter in a couple of years.

Currie was a driving force behind a proposal that would have put District 196's four high schools -- Rosemount, Eastview, Apple Valley and Eagan -- together in a new conference with other local schools, including Lakeville North and South.

The new conference was going to be announced April 1, but failed in the end due to a shortage of partners.

"There is no secret that I thought it would make sense," Currie said. "I understand it's just not the right time for some of them. I see a time, not too far away, where there will be more pressure to control expenses, and reduce travel time for teams and fans. I see a natural conference with teams fairly close geographically. An opportunity presented itself, and we tried to take advantage."

With the Classic Lake Conference being eliminated following the 2010-11 school year, some of its member schools, such as Edina, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Wayzata will have to find new conferences.

As many as four schools could find themselves placed in the Lake Conference, where District 196 schools currently competes. The Lake Conference is already home to 11 teams.

That's given Lake Conference schools the motivation to look for other alternatives, including the cost-friendly options of staying within the county.

"If that wasn't out there, we would be fine with staying the course," Rosemount athletic director Mike Manning said. "We are happy staying in the conference that we are in. I'm interested in coming up with a good solution. There are a lot of factors, and transportation is just one of them."

If the schools and conferences don't find their own answer, the Minnesota State High School League would then place the Classic Lake teams.

"There is enough uncertainty on the placement of the Classic Lake schools that you have to look at solutions," Currie said. "The reality for us, to be adding a school as far away as possibly Wayzata is tough.You have such a good number of schools around here that are similar in size or will be pretty soon. It makes sense to look at. I still think it is something that will be looked at down the road."

Conferences need to have at least seven members. Currie approached at least 10 schools, including the four he oversees.

Lakeville Area schools were expected to join. Schools such as Burnsville, Hastings and Farmington decided to pass at this time.

"I think part of it is what is going on in our district right now," Farmington superintendent Brad Meeks said. "We are moving into a new four-year high school. We have a lot of internal things happening, and we are comfortable in the Missota Conference.

"There are a cluster of schools geographically that it seems to make sense. Just the timing wasn't good for us."

And time is running out for solutions that make sense.