Kaw Valley League’s future in limbo; Tonganoxie could be headed to Frontier League
A 35-year-old Kansas high school league could be seeing its final years.
Tonganoxie High School athletics director Brian Engelken spoke at Monday’s School Board meeting about the future of the Kaw Valley League, a conference THS has been in since the KVL’s modern formation in 1982.
Current member Bishop Ward will head to the Crossroads League starting with the 2018-19 school year, reducing the league to six teams — Basehor-Linwood, Bonner Springs, Lansing, Piper, Turner and Tonganoxie.
Engelken said Lansing wants to create a new league that would contain all or some combination of THS, BLHS, Bonner Springs, Blue Valley Southwest, De Soto, Leavenworth, Ottawa, Piper, Spring Hill, Turner and Topeka schools Seaman, Shawnee Heights and Topeka West.
Other Topeka public schools Highland Park, Topeka High and Washburn Rural were not part of the conversation in joining the Lions in a new league.
Engelken said no THS coaches were in favor of joining that proposed league with the current proposal.
They were basically unanimous in joining the Frontier League, which has offered an invite to THS and several other schools — Lansing, Turner, Basehor-Linwood, Bonner Springs, Blue Valley Southwest, Piper and Turner.
The current seven-member Frontier League is Baldwin, De Soto, Eudora, Louisburg, Paola and Spring Hill.
It’s Engelken’s opinions that the Frontier League would add three schools and that Lansing and Turner would not head that way.
Engelken said KVL superintendents and athletics directors will meet to discuss where each school stands moving forward. On April 5, THS officials will join other potential suitors to discuss a possible fit in the Frontier League.
More positives for Tonganoxie coaches in joining the Frontier League were similar-sized schools and fellow one-high-school communities. Also, THS already plays some Frontier League teams regularly in non-conference contests.
Engelken said the key would be for Tonganoxie to have a conference home come the fall of 2018 and not a scenario in which the “music stops and we’re left without a chair.”
The modern-day KVL has already seen its fair share of shake-up since its foundation more than 30 years ago.
A reprise of a league that existed from 1925 to 1937, the current KVL began competition in 1983 with eight members — seven of which came from leagues that folded the year before.
Tonganoxie, Lansing and De Soto came to the KVL from the Pioneer League.
Meanwhile, Basehor, Eudora and Piper came from the Jayhawk II and Perry-Lecompton from the Jefferson County League. The remaining school, Leavenworth-Immaculata, came from the Big Seven, which still exists.
Eudora was only a league member for two years before leaving for its current home in the Frontier League, and the KVL remained at seven members until adding Santa Fe Trail in 1991. The only other change during that stretch was the consolidation of Basehor High School and Linwood High School in 1988. Linwood spent three separate stints in the original KVL in the 1920s and 1930s.
Mill Valley became the KVL’s ninth member when it opened its doors in 2000. Two years later, the addition of Bonner Springs from the Huron League led to a split into two five-team divisions.
Membership toggled between nine and 10 members during the next several years.
De Soto left for the Frontier League in 2003, but Bishop Ward came over from the Huron League a year later. Immaculata left for the now-defunct DVL in 2007, then formerly independent Turner joined in 2009.
Perry-Lecompton and Santa Fe Trail left for the Big Seven in 2010 and Mill Valley bolted for the Eastern Kansas League in 2016.