Redesigned Frontier League offers advantages
It may be bad news for kids. OK -- only those kids who love long bus rides and early exits from school for sporting events. Outside of that, area athletic officials said the new Frontier League will be a great thing.
The slim-downed league -- it drops from 13 teams to eight this season -- could make for better competition, easier scheduling and shorter travel times, which equates to more time in school, especially for the junior varsity squads whose game's typically start earliest.
"I don't think any coaches will be missing those trips," Eudora athletic director Dave Durkin said. "We will be missing those competitions though. We had good games against all those teams at some point."
The extra-large Frontier League formed in 2004 and initially stretched across a wide swath of northeast Kansas, from Eudora in the northwest to Prairie View, near La Cygne, in the southeast, a distance of nearly 70 miles on the highway.
Prairie View, Central Heights, Osawatomie, Anderson County and Wellsville are all leaving the league this summer, however, eliminating many of the smallest and all of the most distant schools.
"We're spoiled here," Durkin said. "It's not like in western Kansas, where you drive more than a hour to every game."
The remaining Frontier League consists of Eudora, De Soto, Gardner Edgerton, Ottawa, Louisburg, Paola, Spring Hill and Baldwin. The new look pulls the boundaries closer to the Kansas City-metro, and also will confine the league to just two state classifications.
Previously Wellsville and Central Heights competed in Class 3A. Eudora, De Soto, Baldwin, Paola, Louisburg, Osawatomie, Prairie View, Anderson County and Spring Hill all competed in Class 4A, while Gardner Edgerton and Ottawa competed in Class 5A.
The change will be immediate for all sports except football. Football schedules are typically set up for two consecutive years. Eudora will continue to play the teams in the former league's small division, where it will encounter all five departing teams.
The Cardinals upcoming season has road trips to Prairie View, Osawatomie, Anderson County and Central Heights, while they will host Wellsville.
The change by no means makes the path to a league title any easier. The Frontier League was well represented in state competition last season, brining home two Class 4A team state championships and three second-place trophies.
Though the departing schools fielded plenty of competitive teams, they didn't account for any of the top finishes at state and claimed only two league titles over the last two seasons.
Eudora specifically will face new challenges with the smaller alignment. Eudora was one of the smallest schools in the league last year, but held a comfortable size advantage over Prairie View, Central Heights and Wellsville.
In the new formation, Eudora is the smallest, well behind Baldwin and De Soto.
Don't expect that to faze the Cardinals, however.
"You don't worry about what you can't change and you can't change your size," Durkin said. "The best thing that ever happened to Eudora was getting into the Frontier League in the mid 1990s. It was very competitive and was a tough league to be in.
"We had to get with it and get better or take it on the chin. We did that -- our coaches raised their expectations. Our administrators did and our kids did and I don't think anyone here at Eudora will be backing down from anyone."