FDCSD Pushes Forward with Split from CIML - from The Messenger
Fort Dodge is one step closer to forging a new conference path into the future while also respecting the long-standing traditions of its past.
The more things change, the more they very well could be staying the same.
The Fort Dodge Community School District’s Board of Education unanimously approved a plan presented by FDCSD Superintendent Dr. Jesse Ulrich on Monday evening, proposing Fort Dodge’s withdrawal from the Central Iowa Metro League after the 2021-22 academic year.
The resolution passed with unanimous consent.
Fort Dodge would join Mason City, Marshalltown and Ottumwa — districts which have already agreed to leave the CIML — as a new conference picture begins to take shape. Their respective school boards voted in favor of the move earlier this month.
Ames is slated to vote on Tuesday. The Des Moines Public School District — which controls Des Moines Lincoln, Des Moines Roosevelt, Des Moines East, Des Moines Hoover and Des Moines North — hasn’t formally made a public declaration to date.
The proposed 10-school conference would include, at minimum, the Dodgers, Mohawks, Bobcats, Little Cyclones, Bulldogs, Railsplitters, Roughriders, Scarlets, Huskies and Polar Bears.
Fort Dodge has been a member of the CIML since 1992.
“A lot has changed since the early-90s,” Ulrich said. “We’re in a different place ourselves, but more importantly, many of the suburban Des Moines schools have absolutely exploded in both numbers and resources — and that gap only continues to widen. The nightly challenge of keeping pace and competing has become more and more unrealistic. We’ve done so with isolated sports and seasons, but in the long run, it just isn’t sustainable.
“We have an opportunity here to reset while honoring the history we have with (long-time league rivals) Mason City, Marshalltown and Ames. And even, to a certain extent, some of the (Des Moines metros, which were originally a part of the ‘Big 7’). That’s a critical component in all of this: making sure we are cognizant of who we are, where we’re headed, and which schools should be a part of the plan. Mason City, Marshalltown and Ames are obviously a priority, with relationships that date back anywhere from over 50 to 100 years ago. We have to continue to formulate a plan together. Everything is heading in the right direction.”
All of the involved schools are expected to publicly declare their intentions by April 1. At that point, the formal process of creating a new conference constitution, bylaws and schedules for 2022-23 would begin.
“I do commend these schools for getting out in front of this and being proactive,” FDCSD BOE president Stu Cochrane said.
There are currently 18 schools in the CIML. When Fort Dodge became a member in 1992, it was the ninth-largest of a 16-team league, with a grade 9-12 enrollment of 1,219. Johnston was in Class 3A at the time with 653 students in grades 9-12. Waukee was 2A at 288.
Newton and Indianola have since left the CIML. Ankeny split in 2013-14. Johnston joined in 1998-99; Waukee in 2006-07. Waukee is splitting next year.
Fort Dodge currently ranks 15th in enrollment, with around 1,100 students at FDSH. West Des Moines Valley, Waukee, Johnston and Southeast Polk now house between 2-3,000 students in their respective high schools, and both Ankenys are rapidly approaching a similar number.
Size hasn’t been the only issue in trying to compete with Valley, Waukee, Johnston, Southeast Polk, West Des Moines Dowling, Urbandale and the two Ankenys, though. Resources are a major factor as well. According to a spreadsheet shared with Ulrich, the 10 athletic departments considering a move accrued an overall winning percentage of .165 — 376 wins and 1,899 losses — in volleyball, girls and boys soccer, girls and boys basketball, softball and baseball combined between the years of 2015 and 2020 versus their suburban Des Moines counterparts.
The “Big Eight” was created in 1968-69, with Fort Dodge, Mason City, Cedar Falls, Waterloo East and Waterloo West flanking Marshalltown, Ames and Newton. It disbanded in 1992, a year after Marshalltown left for the CIML. Cedar Falls, Waterloo East and Waterloo West went east, joining the Mississippi Valley Conference.
“The numbers and facts don’t lie,” Ulrich said. “This isn’t about conceding anything or giving up. We have a bigger picture in mind and an eye on the future. We want to increase participation and embrace our identity without having to compromise who we are. This is an option all 10 schools are excited about.”