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UIC accepts Crestwood; New Hampton and Waukon extended invitations to join league

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By Bob Fenske

The obituary for Iowa's oldest high school athletic conference can now be written.

That's because on Tuesday afternoon, the superintendents of the Upper Iowa Conference voted to admit Crestwood to the conference, beginning with the 2025-26 school year.

And that leaves the NEIC with just four schools, one less than the state association's mandate conferences have to have.

During Tuesday's meeting, all the current UIC members but one voted to admit Crestwood to the conference, with only MFL-Mar-Mac abstaining from the vote. That paved the way for the Cadets to leave the NEIC, which was formed in 1920, following the 2024-25 school year.

Jay Jurrens, who is the superintendent at both Turkey Valley, a UIC member, and New Hampton, a member of the NEIC, said Upper Iowa superintendents also extended formal invitations to both New Hampton and Waukon to join the conference.

"This really is the end of the NEIC," Jurrens said, "and we in New Hampton will have some decisions to make. Four isn't enough obviously, but then again, we knew five wasn't really realistic."

The NEIC had been a seven-team conference for more than 50 years before Oelwein departed in 2021 to join the North Iowa Cedar League. A year later, the NEIC voted the conference's largest school, Waverly-Shell Rock, out of the league in an attempt to make the NEIC more attractive to smaller schools like Osage, North Fayette Valley and Sumner-Fredericksburg, just to name a few.

Waverly-Shell Rock and the remaining NEIC schools, which also includes Charles City and Decorah, reached a deal last year to allow the Go-Hawks to compete this year in the conference before it become an independent in 2024-25.

But the NEIC found no takers as it sought to expand, and Crestwood applied for UIC membership last month while Charles City sent a "letter of inquiry" to the North Central Conference.

Jurrens said UIC superintendents, in a letter sent to both Waukon and New Hampton, believe "an ideal group of schools" could be found if those two schools come into the NEIC. A "large-school" division would have Waukon, Crestwood, New Hampton, North Fayette Valley, MFL-Mar-Mac and South Winneshiek. The remaining schools — Postville, Clayton Ridge, Central Elkader, Turkey Valley, Kee High and West Central — would be grouped in a "small-school division."

The UIC superintendents also said they "would like to move forward with this as quickly as possible" and asked Waukon and New Hampton to respond by March 1.

Jurrens said he plans on meeting with New Hampton coaches on Wednesday morning and is looking at holding a community meeting next week to discuss the conference situation.

He said he would like to have as much information as possible for School Board members when they meet on Feb. 19.


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