Farmington could join South Suburban Conference

Farmington applies for 2014-15, decision up to the School Board

The opponents for Farmington High School athletics and activities could look very different in the coming years.

Farmington was informed on Tuesday that the group of 10 schools in the South Suburban Conference approved its application 10-0 to join the league in 2014.

The next step is getting approval from the Farmington School District 192 Board, which meets again in January.

“Before we applied we had a dialogue with coaches, so this isn’t something that comes as a surprise,” Farmington athletic director Jon Summer said. “We’ve enjoyed our time and relationship in the Missota, but there’s some changing dynamics in Farmington.”

The application was based on projected enrollment for Farmington High School and the fact that schools in the South Suburban are much closer than some in the Missota.

The current 10-member SSC was created in 2009 with nine former Lake Conference teams along with former Missota school Prior Lake.

The SSC features larger schools such as Apple Valley, Burnsville, Eastview, Eagan, Rosemount, Bloomington Kennedy, Bloomington Jefferson, Lakeville North and Lakeville South, which all play in the big-school classification in nearly every sport.

Projected Farmington high school enrollment in 10 years puts the school at more than 2,200 students, according to Summer.

“We are fortunate geographically that we’re starting to look a lot like the schools around us,” Summer said.

The current Farmington enrollment would place it in the middle of South Suburban Conference schools, but it’s the top in the Missota.

Farmington could join the South Suburban Conference with Eagan and Lakeville South. File photo by Rick Orndorf

In the South Suburban most schools enroll around 1,700-2,100.

In the Missota, only Shakopee has more than 1,500 students enrolled in the high school with most schools in the 800-1,200 range.

The school’s travel expenses and efficiency is also a factor.

The Missota Conference includes schools from Chaska (34 miles away) and Red Wing (40 miles) that are all greater distances than Bloomington Jefferson (22 miles), which is the most distant SSC school.

“When you look at what you need for early releases and how late kids are coming home, they’re getting home pretty late and missing school,” Summer said.

The average distance for a Missota school is about 28 miles. In the South Suburban it would be 12.6 miles.

As far as remaining competitive, Prior Lake also made the jump from the Missota to the South Suburban in 2009. Last fall the football team won a share of the conference title and played at the state tournament.

“On any given year that competitiveness goes up and down,” Summer said. “This is more about what we were becoming and what we were looking at as a community.”

If approved by the School Board, Farmington would begin to play in the SSC in fall 2014. Summer is aware that rivalries with certain schools have formed through the years, including competition for the Tractor Trophy with the Northfield football team.

“Certainly there were coaches that will miss those types of rivalries, but it wasn’t strong enough to say we shouldn’t move forward,”  Summer said.

There would still be an opportunity to play Missota teams in nonconference games.

Summer also mentioned the opportunity of added activities.

“There are a lot of programs that are school-sponsored that we don’t have here or in the Missota,” Summer said. “Things like chess and skiing. It gives us the opportunity to look at the programs they’re offering and explore enhanced opportunities.”

Farmington has also run into trouble of finding enough competition. The football team has five levels of play, but not every school in the Missota has five football teams to play against.

Shakopee is also reportedly applying to be in the South Suburban Conference. Its application was approved by its School Board on Tuesday.

Farmington is completing the process in reverse by applying first.