High School Sports: Berwick Explores Leaving WVC
Though it never came to an official vote, the Berwick school board did have discussions at its meeting Monday night about the possibility of leaving the Wyoming Valley Conference and joining the Heartland Conference for the start of the 2020-21 sports season.
Previously, the district had tinkered with the idea of joining the Heartland Conference, as well as the Anthracite League. But nothing ever materialized with either conference. Now, the board is waiting to gather more information to determine whether it will be feasible to exit the WVC and join the Heartland.
“It was considered; we brought it up, but it never came to a vote,” Berwick superintendent Wayne Brookhart said. “It’s come up before and it is coming back up again. We had discussions with the leadership of the Heartland Conference, and we have it on good authority that we will be welcome there.”
With the athletic jointure of Coughlin, GAR and Meyers beginning next fall, there is some uncertainty where Berwick will fall in terms of divisional alignment, according to Brookhart. Travel in all sports is also an issue for the district.
“We talked about it at length; it has been difficult at Berwick for a long time because of our location,” Brookhart said. “It is no easy decision either way. There is going to be change in the Heartland Conference and the Wyoming Valley Conference, we want to do the best we can to get ahead of it.”
Brookhart estimated that with the jointure of the three Wilkes-Barre public schools, that will place Berwick ninth in enrollment in the WVC. He is unsure how that will impact all athletic programs at Berwick in terms of divisional alignment. But he also said by no means is he unhappy with the conference, he just needs to protect the interests of the Berwick athletic program.
“I don’t know what the future is, with the jointure that means we are losing three schools our size or smaller and gaining one that is bigger,” Brookhart said. “We don’t know what the divisions will look like, but it could be devastating for our programs. (Football coach Frank Sheptock) and I talked about it quite a bit. It’s not that we aren’t happy in the Wyoming Valley Conference. There is a shifting demographics and we need to do what is right for Berwick.”
The topic was simply discussion and there was no motion made or vote taken on leaving the WVC. Berwick officials are waiting to gather more information, but time may be running out as the Heartland Conference is in the early stages of planning its schedules for the 2020-21 seasons.
“We are going to have to see if the Heartland will give us more time,” Brookhart said. “If not, then it will probably die. We will talk with them. I know they have an important meeting coming up. I can make a case for the Wyoming Valley Conference and I can make a case for the Heartland.”
Should Berwick elect to join the Heartland Conference, it will create a huge void in the WVC in all sports from a competition perspective. From a football point of view, a Berwick departure will be difficult for the conference to handle.
“We’ve had a real good (football) series with Selinsgrove,” Brookhart said. “I did say publicly that Southern Columbia wants to play us. (Sheptock) said he wants to play them too. That is easier to do in the Heartland. If we are in the WVC, it is not easy to do that. Southern Columbia and Selinsgrove are a good start on a football schedule.”
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