The DuPage Valley Conference football teams are merging with the Southwest Suburban Conference beginning with the fall 2024 season. The six team DVC, which includes DeKalb, Metea Valley, Naperville Central, Naperville North, Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley, will soon be competing in a 15 team mega-conference split into three divisions with five teams in each division. The merger will only be for the football teams and will not include any other sports.
A desire to keep teams in state
Both the DVC and SWSC athletic directors had reasons to a bring their football teams together. With only six teams in the DVC since Glenbard North, Wheaton Warrenville South, Wheaton North and Lake Park left the conference in 2018, it has been a struggle to find enough non-conference football opponents each year. Most of the teams have had to travel out of state to find opponents in recent seasons, something the schools are looking to avoid in the future. DVC teams have also been forced to play some conference opponents twice during the same season.
“Having those out of state trips is hard on everybody,” said Naperville Central athletic director Chris Kirkpatrick. “You can go out to play in Ohio, but then they won’t travel out of state to come here. So this just works out for everybody.”
The Southwest Suburban Conference recently moved from a ten team conference down to nine after Bolingbrook announced it will be leaving to join the Southwest Prairie Conference, so the merger helps fill the schedule gap.
There will now be the Blue, Red and Green Divisions. For now, the Blue Division will include the top five schools in terms of enrollment and success formula. The Red Division has the next five and the Green Division has the bottom five.
The 2024 breakdown has Homewood-Flossmoor, Lincoln-Way East, Lockport, Naperville North and Neuqua Valley in the Blue Division. Andrew, Lincoln-Way West, Metea Valley, Naperville Central and Sandburg are in the Red Division. Bradley Bourbonnais, DeKalb, Lincoln-Way Central, Stagg and Waubonsie Valley make up the Green Division.
“It does mean a potentially tougher schedule. We’ve got some of the premiere teams in the state with teams like Lincoln-Way East on the schedule now. So it’s going to be tougher on all of us. But I think the biggest pro is that it’s going to be fair and equitable for all of us,” Kirkpatrick said.
CCL/ESCC Merger sets an example
Back in 2019, Benet Academy and its fellow East Suburban Catholic Conference teams merged with the Chicago Catholic League to form a 24 team mega-conference, which was also done just for football. Their divisions have four teams each and the divisions rotate every couple of seasons.
Keeping key rivalries alive
Setting up the divisions in this manner splits up some of the longest and most intense rivalries in the state. This means that games like the Crosstown Classic between Naperville Central and Naperville North, Neuqua Valley vs Waubonsie Valley and the Eola Bowl between Waubonsie Valley and Metea Valley, must be played as non-conference games if they are going to continue.
“Even if we do not draw Naperville North in our division, we will definitely play them in the non-conference,” Kirkpatrick explained. “The non-conference portion of the schedule will be weeks one and two. So it looks like next year we will play (North) in week one. It will also depend on when we can book North Central College to hold the game.”
The DuPage Valley Conference and Southwest Suburban Conference partnership should bring plenty of excitement to the gridiron when the football season kicks off next fall.