The Central Ozark Conference (COC) has invited Springfield Glendale and Springfield Kickapoo to join the league, starting with the 2024-25 school year. COC member schools agreed to issue the invitation within the past 24 hours, and it was delivered this morning.
If Kickapoo and Glendale join and no other schools defect, COC membership would stand at 10 teams: Carthage, Glendale, Joplin, Kickapoo, Neosho, Nixa, Ozark, Republic, Webb City, and Willard.
Republic superintendent Matt Pearce said the invitation is an effort to be pro-active instead of waiting to see whether more conference changes occur and reacting to them. Travel distance was among the concerns cited by Pearce.
“The remaining COC superintendents decided we have a really nice conference, and we want to keep it together. We’d like to replace the schools that left with two schools who are more similar to us than different, and they’re in our own backyard,” Pearce said. “Instead of waiting for people to leave, we wanted to change the narrative and see who wanted to join.”
The conference shakeup began when COC members Branson and Carl Junction joined four other schools — including members of the Ozark Conference (OC) — in forming a new league called the Ozark Mountain Conference (OMC).
Two remaining members of the Ozark Conference, Hillcrest and Parkview, reportedly have petitioned to join the Ozark Mountain Conference. There are also reports that the OMC has reached out to Central Ozark Conference members Neosho and Willard.
Last week, COC members had planned to move forward with the current eight schools. At that time, the COC and OC were working on a scheduling agreement for football that would have allowed an undetermined number of crossover games. Schools were unable to come to an agreement that satisfied all 16 members in both leagues.
There’s no timeline for a decision by the Springfield schools, but Pearce said COC members hope to be scheduling the 2024 football season by next week.