DeKalb High School announced Tuesday, October 16, 2018 that they accepted an invitation to join the DuPage Valley Conference. They will begin competition in the now 6-team conference for all of its athletic programs in the 2019-2020 school year.
The high schools in the DuPage Valley Conference are Naperville Central, Naperville North, Nequa Valley (Naperville), Waubonsie Valley (Aurora), and Metea Valley (Aurora).
DeKalb’s current conference, the Northern Illinois Big 12, is dissolving after this year, with most of the other schools, including Sycamore and Kaneland, reforming the Interstate 8 along with Plano and Sandwich. DeKalb was the last team in the conference to find a new home for next year.
DeKalb High School had been a member of the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference since it was formed in 2010, and was part of the East Division along with Sycamore, Kaneland, Yorkville, and Morris.
With the new conference acceptance, DeKalb was able to avoid competing next year as an independent. Joining the five larger schools in the Naperville-Aurora area comes with both challenges and opportunities.
DeKalb High School was a founding member of the Upstate Eight Conference in 1963, but left in 2006 because they were having a difficult time competing with the larger schools such as St. Charles East, Lake Park, and current DuPage Valley members, Waubonsie Valley and Neuqua Valley.
Last year, the Barbs applied to rejoin the Upstate Eight, but were rejected. When it was made known that West Aurora was leaving the Upstate Eight to join the Southwest Prairie Conference, DeKalb reapplied to the Upstate Eight last June…and was turned down again. The Upstate Eight instead invited Fenton High School to even out its membership.
While DeKalb faced the undesirable prospect of being independent next year, the DuPage Valley Conference had a need as well—they were left with only five schools when four of their members left to start the new DuKane Conference. So while DeKalb to the DuPage Valley is not a match made in Heaven, it will have to do…for now.
(If all of this conference shuffling has your head spinning, you are not alone.)
DeKalb will be joining a higher-profile league, with several athletically and academically elite schools. Since it was founded in 1975, DuPage Valley schools have won a total of 60 state titles in sports ranging from football and basketball to competitive dance and water polo.
All of the schools in DeKalb’s new conference will be significantly larger than they are, ranging from Neuqua Valley at over 3600 students to Naperville North with “only” 2674 (800 more than DeKalb).
While some DeKalb High School officials and coaches expressed excitement about moving up to the higher-profile conference and the extra exposure it will bring to their athletes, others were also wary of the stiff competition they will now be facing in every sport due to their size disadvantage.
DeKalb High School Principal, James Horne, conveyed optimism for the move in a released statement.
“The DuPage Valley Conference will be a good fit for DeKalb High School due to the competitive athletic programs, as well as the breadth of activities offered at each of these campuses,” said Horne.