Expansion could be on the horizon for the North Central Kansas League.
Monday night at the USD 435 September school board meeting, Abilene director of athletics Will Burton informed the board that league officials have been approached by Rock Creek High School seeking acceptance as a member. Burton told the board that other members of the Mid-East League may also seek membership, with possibly Riley County being the most interested.
Rock Creek is currently a larger Class 3A school and as Burton explained, the community of Manhattan keeps expanding eastward toward the consolidated high school located between Manhattan and Wamego. There is some speculation that may reach Class 4A levels of enrollment in the foreseeable future. That school district has been actively involved in updating its sports facilities.
As Burton explained to the board, Abilene already has Rock Creek on the schedules of several sports as does other league schools because of their proximity to the NCKL membership schools. Burton said that the school district is growing quickly and is seeking advantages the Mid-East League can not provide due to the size of schools in that league.
“I am fully good with adding Rock Creek,” Burton said. “Eventually, I think they will be a 4A school and help with football scheduling. If Riley County were added, we could work with that too.”
Scheduling becomes an issue when it comes to expansion in the conference, particularly with football. Currently Abilene can only schedule three non-Class 4A schools in football due to the scheduling mandates by KSHSAA guidelines. Abilene has games with Concordia, Clay Center and Chapman, who all play football in Class 3A. Wamego recently moved up in enrollment from Class 3A to 4A and have been brought back to Abilene’s schedule. For a short time, they were not on the schedule when they were playing in Class 3A.
Burton warned of over-expanding and what it might do to basketball scheduling for example when considering a home and home agreement with each league member and trying to keep contracts with long standing non-league schools.
Going forward the NCKL will meet in late October to discuss the Rock Creek addition. If the league approves the addition, then Rock Creek Middle School would be competing as a league school beginning 2022-2023 school year. It may take another year on the high school level particularly in football due to scheduling situations.
The board unanimously approved the proposal of adding Rock Creek and Riley County if presented. Burton and Abilene Middle School athletics director Derek Berns will represent Abilene at the October league meetings.