It took just a seven-minute meeting for members of the Geneseo School Board to vote to join the Western Big 6 Conference on Wednesday, March 21.

It took just a seven-minute meeting for members of the Geneseo School Board to vote to join the Western Big 6 Conference on Wednesday, March 21.

“All the comments I’ve heard the past few days have been positive,” said school board president Doug Ford. “And the comments usually come with ‘This has been 20 years in the making.’”

Geneseo will officially join the Western Big 6, which includes Galesburg, Quincy, Moline, United Township, Alleman and Rock Island, in the 2019-20 season.

On Thursday, March 22, officials at Sterling High School announced they also would join the Western Big 6.

In January, Geneseo announced its intention to leave the NIB XII Conference.

Geneseo was a founding member of the NIB XII (Northern Illinois Big 12) when the conference was launched during the 2010-11 school year.

However, an exit from that group “had been coming for awhile” said Geneseo Superintendent Scott Kuffel.

“Culturally and academically, we didn’t have much in common with the others, which are bigger, more suburban schools,” he said.

Geneseo was the smallest NIB XII school with a high-school enrollment of 845, while schools like Kaneland, Yorkville and DeKalb have close to 2,000 students.

The exit of Geneseo and a number of other schools from the NIB XII left school districts searching for new conferences.

Among those also seeking a new conference were the Sterling Golden Warriors. Western Big 6 Conference president David Hobin extended an invitation to both schools.

“It is evident to us that Geneseo and Sterling High Schools regard the importance of sportsmanship, academic excellence, and dedication to students as highly as our found members and that adding you as members effective for the 2019-20 school year will be a great asset to our conference,” wrote Hobin in his invitation letter dated March 13.

“We feel fortunate that we’re able to stick with Sterling,” said Kuffel. The two schools were rivals in the NIB XII Conference as well as in the old NCIC conference.

Agreeing to join the Western Big 6 “made sense” said the Geneseo superintendent.

“For several decades, our middle school sports have been part of of the Heartland Conference which includes a number of the Quad City junior high schools,” he said.

“Our kids also know more of the kids from the Quad City schools because they’ve been with them in summer programs,” explained Kuffel.

Geographically, the move to the Western Big 6 is a benefit for Geneseo.

“There’s an advantage already when you compare a trip to Rock Island with a trip to Kaneland,” said Kuffel.

“Last year, between all sports, we traveled 26,000 miles. In the Western Big 6, it will be 14,000 or 15,000. Saving 10,000 miles will be good for the students and their parents,” he said.

Had Geneseo stuck with the old NIB XII schools, the average travel distance would be 90 miles. In the Western Big 6, including Quincy, that average drops to 50 miles.

​Not counting Quincy, the average travel distance is below 30 miles. “We’re trading five really long trips for one really long trip,” said Kuffel.

The superintendent also told board members that Geneseo’s coaches had “voted unanimously” to join the Western Big 6.

The Geneseo school board followed suit with its own vote of approval.

“This is good, very good,” said board member Barry Snodgrass.