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Fort Dodge School Board unanimously votes to split from athletic conference in attempt to level the playing field

The board voted Monday to join Mason City, Marshalltown and Ottumwa to form their own athletic conference, which may soon include Ames and five Des Moines schools.

FORT DODGE, Iowa — Jesse Ullrich says the student-athletes at Fort Dodge Community School District don't have a fair shot on the basketball court. The superintendent says other schools in the Central Iowa Metropolitan League (CIML) have far outgrown the athletic conference, leaving Fort Dodge students at an unfair advantage.

"There's a reason that David and Goliath was a one-time event," said Supt. Ullrich. "When we're literally going against schools that are two-to-three times the size of us, that's no longer competitive."

That's why the school board unanimously voted Monday to split from the CIML, joining three that have already voted to officially form their own league. Two other districts, making up six more schools, are expected to follow.

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There are currently 19 schools in the conference. Fort Dodge, Marshalltown, Mason City, and Ottumwa have now voted to split and form their own league.

Ames Community School District is considering a vote, as well as five schools within Des Moines Public Schools: Des Moines East, Des Moines Hoover, Des Moines Lincoln, Des Moines, North, and Des Moines Roosevelt.

Below, highlighted in red are the schools that have proposed to split from the CIML, forming their own conference.

Credit: WOI-TV
Highlighted in red are the schools that have proposed to split from the CIML, forming their own conference.

The change would not affect football, which is not governed by the CIML; instead, that's grouped by the Iowa High School Athletic Association. It would affect all other sports, including basketball. Ullrich attributes Fort Dodge CDS's 16% win rate in the conference to numbers.

"It's not that we're afraid of competition, but it is just a sheer enrollment issue," said Ullrich. "Mathematically if you ask [a] school with 800 students to find the best five basketball players and you have a school with 2,500 students and they have to find the best five basketball players, mathematically, one has an advantage over the other."

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