The western thumb of the Big East Conference, Lisbon is somewhat isolated.
“We’re on the outside edge,” said Jim Schultz, the school’s athletics director. “Eight (of our 11 conference rivals) are at least an hour and 15 minutes away.”
So it’s time to look elsewhere.
Lisbon has formally applied for membership into the Tri-Rivers Conference. If its application is accepted, Lisbon will join in 2012-13.
Tri-Rivers athletics directors and principals have green-lighted the expansion, with superintendents scheduled to vote at their annual meeting June 2.
“They’ve got some really nice athletic programs,” said North Linn AD Mike Hilmer. “I think there is some concern from some of our northern schools on travel, but (Lisbon) would be a good fit.
“If they come, we’d love to have one more come with them.”
Lisbon’s entrance would make the Tri-Rivers an 11-school league. Twelve would be optimal for scheduling and would open the possibility of divisions, by geography or enrollment.
Phil Steffen, retired AD at East Buchanan and now the Tri-Rivers activities director, said he has not received a letter of application from anyone else.
“We’re hearing that other Big East schools may be interested,” he said. ”Who knows how everything is going to play out?”
When North Cedar departed for the Cedar Valley Conference in 2008, Lisbon lost its lone conference rival from an adjacent district. Now, Olin is the only Big East school within a half-hour drive.
For Lisbon, the other Big East schools are an average of 55.3 miles away. The Tri-Rivers schools would have a mean distance of 41.1 miles, with four (Springville, Alburnett, Central City and North Linn) in the same county.
According to the 2008-09 BEDS Documents, Lisbon has an enrollment of 123 in grades 10-12 this year. The other Big East members have an average of 110.9 (with six below 90) while the Tri-Rivers schools have an average enrollment of 168.7 (none below 100).
The low enrollments at some of the Big East schools “makes it tough on us, especially at the junior-high level,” Schultz said.
Steffen said, ”I’m sure there will be some school closings and consolidations in the near future. There’s quite a bit on instability in these economic times.”