OTTUMWA — When discussing the merits of Ottumwa's athletic teams joining a new sports league two word are commonly brought up: freedom and flexibility.
"The positives would be that we would get to set our own schedule," said Ottumwa girls basketball coach Kevin Patterson. "Other than trying to set new schedules, I can't think of one negative thing [about joining the new conference]. These schools that we are playing now are similar to us competitive-wise and budget-wise."
The new conference the Ottumwa School Board unanimously voted for Ottumwa athletic teams — with the exception of football, which is in its own conference — to join would essentially be the same as the Metro Conference they are in today plus Marshalltown.
But, unlike the Metro Conference, this conference wouldn't be part of the 19-team Central Iowa Metropolitan League. While the Metro Conference comprises seven teams, the other 12 teams are split into three divisions — Eastern, Western, Northern — in what is known as the Central Iowa Conference.
Since Ottumwa is part of CIML, many of the Bulldogs sports teams have to play crossover games against CIC teams like Dowling, Waukee, Ames, Urbandale and West Des Moines Valley. In some sports, this leaves little room to schedule teams outside the CIML.
Patterson said he has to tell three of CIC teams that his team can't play them so he can squeeze the the Southeast Iowa Conference schools – Washington, Fort Madison, Mount Pleasant, Keokuk and Fairfield – into his team's schedule.
"It makes sense to play the southeast schools because they are our local rivals and they are in our junior high conference," Patterson said.
If league becomes a reality, Ottumwa's teams could schedule even more games against teams closer to home.
"We could play Osky and Centerville and Pella," Patterson said.