In the old days (i.e., when I was a lad), Iowa high school athletic conferences had eight teams, and the longest road trip the teams and their fans had to make was probably 60 miles, with most trips shorter than that.
For example, the old Sioux Valley Conference teams were Alta, Aurelia, Hartley, Milford, Paullina, Primghar, Sanborn and Sutherland, with the trip to Milford the "long trip" for the Cherokee and Buena Vista County schools.
The Lakes Conference originally consisted of eight schools who were located in close proximity to a lake of one size or another - Cherokee, Emmetsburg, Estherville, Sheldon, Sibley, Spencer, Storm Lake and Storm Lake.
All pretty simple, no? But then things started to change, as the Iowa population decreased, schools began sharing sports and/or whole grades, conferences changed or, in the case of the Sioux Valley, ceased to exist all together.
These days, I'm not if many high school sports fans can even list all the schools in their town's conference, let alone what class they are in. This lack of connection with conferences was certainly not helped when the state decided to go to the district system for football, where the athletic conferences disappear until basketball season . Well, that's not totally true, I guess. While a school's gridders are competing in District 1, District 2, whatever, their volleyball girls are still contending for titles in the conference.
At any rate, it's certainly more confusing than it used to be and guess what? It ain't gonna get better any time soon, folks.
The last couple of years have brought about the creation of the so-called "super conference."
The former Maple Valley Conference, home of many celebrated teams such as the Holstein Pirates over the years, merged with the Boyer Valley Conference a couple of years ago to form the new superconference, the Western Valley Conference. This conference covers so much area geographically, it was divided into North and South divisions, with the North division made up primarily of schools which were previously Maple Valley Conference schools and the South division being made up primarily of former Boyer Valley schools. I suppose there was a logical reason behind the schools all becoming one conference, but there you have it. Conference members are Ar-We-Va, Boyer Valley, Charter Oak-Ote, IKM/Manning, West Harrison, West Monona, whiting and Woodbine in the WVC South and Kingsley-Pierson, Lawton-Bronson, Maple Valley/Anthon-Oto, Odebolt-Arthur/Battle Creek-Ida Grove, Ridge View, River Valley, Westwood and Woodbury Central in the North Division.
The next "superconference" is getting ready to begin in the 2011-2012 school year, when the current Twin Lakes Conference and the current Northwest Conference join forces in the new Twin Lakes Super Conference.
Members of this new conglomerate will include Southeast Webster-Grand, Prairie Valley, South Central Calhoun, East Sac County, Manson/Northwest Webster, Pocahontas Area/Pomeroy-Palmer, Alta-Aurelia, Storm Lake St. Mary's, Laurens-Marathon, Sioux Central, and Newell-Fonda. I'm not certain exactly how many different towns are represented by these 11 schools, but most of the schools have students from at least two different towns, if not more. With 11 teams, I am speculating that the Twin Lakes will also be divided into divisions.
The bottom line is, to quote the old line, these days "you can't tell the players without a scorecard."