Turner set to join the KVL
Golden Bears will be league’s fourth Class 5A school, as well as its biggest
Turner High School has been accepted into the Kaw Valley League and will begin play during the 2008-2009 season.
The official word reached existing KVL schools in late May and was immediately greeted with open arms.
"I think Turner will be a good fit for our league," said Bonner Springs High School athletics director Garold Baker. "In the long run, Turner is going to make the Kaw Valley League a lot stronger."
With its enrollment of more than 1,200 students, Turner will instantly become the largest school in the league, which comes in direct contrast to the school it will be replacing.
The Golden Bears' chance to join the KVL came because of Immaculata's desire to get out. At the beginning of the 2006-2007 school year, KVL officials received a letter from IMAC that detailed the desire to leave the league, citing size issues as the main reason for moving on.
"We hate to see them go," Mill Valley AD Matt Bohm said. "But we certainly understand the situation they're in."
Immaculata will drop out of the KVL almost entirely beginning next season. Only the Raiders' football team will remain a member of the league, and that will only be for one more season because the state's district assignments are already set.
Upon learning of IMAC's impending departure, KVL ADs and principals put their heads together to find a replacement. Initially, talks focused on combining forces with the Frontier League to form an 18-team Super League but the idea quickly lost steam and led to focusing exclusively on Turner.
At that point, things moved quickly, as Turner officials presented the KVL with an informal presentation of what the school could offer the league. Evidently, the proposal was impressive because after being turned down twice in the past, Turner was voted in this time.
A league source said the vote among athletics directors was 7-2 in favor of Turner. A similar vote among KVL principals was 8-1 in favor of Turner. Only six votes were needed in each case for acceptance.
"Turner has done a lot to work towards what the league is working for and what the league is all about," Baker said.
That work has focused on keeping students involved in athletics, upgrading athletic facilities and pushing sportsmanship as a key aspect of competition. Turner athletic director Paul Colwell said the school has worked hard to rid itself of the negative image it had gained.
"For the past four years we have been working really hard on sportsmanship and we have taken care of business," Colwell said.
Turner's inclusion will shift the landscape of the KVL. Based on last year's enrollment totals, the league's big class will now include: Turner, Mill Valley, Lansing, Bonner Springs and Tonganoxie. The small class will consist of: Basehor-Linwood, Piper, Bishop Ward, Perry-Lecompton and Santa Fe Trail. If last year's enrollment holds, the only existing school to change classes would be Basehor-Linwood. But that did little to deter the Bobcats from welcoming Turner into the league.
"Regardless of where we ended up as far as the league configuration goes, we felt they were a great addition and we're certainly happy to have them in the league," BLHS AD Joe Keeler said. "Anytime you can strengthen competition, I think that's a benefit and has a positive affect on the league."
The competition aspect of adding the larger school was particularly appealing for Mill Valley, which has been the top overall sports program in the league for the past few years. Adding another Class 5A school in Turner, Bohm said, will better prepare the Jaguars for postseason play.
"All of our coaches were excited when I told them Turner was coming into the league," Bohm said. "We welcome Turner into the league because they do give us more competition and that's good for our programs."
The league shakeup will have little impact on Lansing, which added Turner to the schedule in most sports a few years ago when LHS began upgrading its schedule with larger schools.
"Adding Turner did nothing more than make it a league game," LHS AD Gary Mattingly said. "We currently play them in quite a few sports as it is, so it'll just become a league game and we will look to fill our non-league spot with another school."
Lansing had Turner on the schedule in boys soccer, boys and girls basketball, baseball and softball this season. In addition, the schools' wrestling teams met up at a handful of tournaments and the football teams played in the Class 5A state playoffs last fall.
While adding Turner benefits the rest of the Kaw Valley League, Turner itself stands to gain the most. Along with shedding its independent label and becoming affiliated with teams in close proximity, Turner will gain exposure for its athletes through league competition and postseason honors.
"We kid around that we've been in first place in our league for the last four years," Colwell said. "I think this will be great for our kids because we haven't been able to win league titles in the past four years. We haven't enjoyed the thrill of all-league honors. It's been all-metro or nothing for us."
In addition to gaining something to play for, the Bears will renew old rivalries with Bonner Springs and Bishop Ward, schools that spent time with Turner in the old Huron League. According to Colwell, the total package of what joining the KVL will mean has everyone in gold and black looking forward to the future.
"We are very honored to be a part of the Kaw Valley League," Colwell said. "There are some fantastic schools in the league and joining them is a very special feeling."
Turner joins Bonner Springs (2002) and Mill Valley (2000) as the most recent schools to join the Kaw Valley League. Immaculata joins De Soto (2004) as the most recent team to depart.