(5-29-22) With the current school year coming to a close it will end the way high school athletic conferences look in the Des Moines metro area. One new conference of 11 schools will make its debut – Iowa Alliance Conference (IAC) , while another will have been reshaped with just nine remaining members – Central Iowa Metropolitan League (CIML).

After many years of a possible break-up of the CIML it has finally happened and we will now see what the change will do for both conferences and the area schools.

2014 StoryCIML split inevitable? Why 8 schools could be poised to move on

2013 report: CIML’s big spenders are cashing in

DMPS Superintendent Tom Ahart in March of 2021 released this statement –

“This is a change I am confident will benefit our students, our teams, our schools, and our community. A more competitive high school athletic conference will mean more opportunities for success and, as a result, will lead to greater student participation in sports and engagement with their schools.”

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The release also stated reasoning behind the change-

  • More competitive equity between the member high schools;
  • Greater similarities among the member high schools;
  • Increased competition and success for greater student participation and engagement;
  • Increased competition and success in order to hire, support and retain coaches;
  • Greater flexibility in decision-making and scheduling within a smaller conference;
  • Maintain historic rivalries between central Iowa high schools.

The 10 CIML schools that made the move gave some numbers and why a change was needed – “non-suburban schools vs. the suburban schools” in the past five years (not including 2021-22 school year) in the CIML in the following sports…volleyball, boys’ and girls’ soccer, boys’ and girls’ basketball, baseball and softball. The schools that are leaving the CIML accounted for just 16.5% of wins in those sports over the past five years (376 wins, compared to suburban schools’ 1,899 wins).

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The IAC will begin competition with the start of the 2022-23 school year with 11 member high schools. 10 of those schools left the Central Iowa Metro League (CIML), while Waterloo East is leaving the Mississippi Valley Conference to join.

South Division

  • Ottumwa
  • Des Moines Roosevelt
  • Des Moines Lincoln
  • Des Moines Hoover
  • Des Moines North
  • Des Moines East

North Division

  • Mason City
  • Ames
  • Marshalltown
  • Fort Dodge
  • Waterloo East

After trying a last ditch effort (see memo below) to keep the CIML intact with a proposal that would reshape the conference, those who finally left thought it wasn’t enough to make a difference.

With departure of the 10 members the new reshaped CIML will look like this in the fall –

Ankeny, Ankeny Centennial, Dowling Catholic, Johnston, Southeast Polk, Urbandale, Valley, Waukee and Waukee Northwest

To many the changes seem pretty drastic…but they fall right in line with what is going on in other states in the Stateline. States like Indiana and Ohio the past several years have seen some pretty big and sometime shocking changes.

While a school’s size is a factor…the main cause for conference alignment is ‘success’ for some and the lack of success for the other schools.

Here are some examples of those recent situations in Indiana


Carmel and Center Grove were booted by the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference (MIC) in mid-December 2021. When that happened they also were not welcome to compete in spring sports. The MIC has not replaced these two members and are presently operating as a 6-member conference. The two schools both applied to Hoosier Crossroads Conference and both were rejected. The main reason is successful programs.

In Ohio

Related –

Liberty-Benton will leave the Blanchard Valley Conference. The Eagles are a founding member of the BVC, but they have grown in size…with that they became very successful in all BVC sports. The vote by member schools was unanimous. to accept their proposal to leave

Over 10 years ago Lima Central Catholic (LCC) was asked to leave the Northwest Conference (NWC). LCC was the only private school in the small public school NWC, after just a few years and a very successful run they were politely asked to leave. They left and today they still compete as an independent, which is a tough road to follow.


Recently the Three Rivers Athletic Conference (TRAC) had a mass exodus of public schools to the Northern Lakes League (NLL). The departure of those schools left the six Toledo Catholic schools out of that mix (plus Lima Senior) –

  • Toledo Central Catholic
  • Toledo Notre Dame Academy (Girls)
  • Toledo St. Francis de Sales (Boys)
  • Toledo St. John’s Jesuit (Boys)
  • Toledo St. Ursula Academy (Girls)

So how did they all find a new conference home? In an unusual moved they all joined the Catholic High School League in Detroit, Michigan. Success in the TRAC led to the split of the conference and being left out of area conferences.

So that left one TRAC member, Lima Sr. to fend for its self, looking for a new conference home. Shortly before the six Catholic schools announced their move to a Michigan conference the Spartans announced they would be competing in the Toledo City League with the five city schools. That means any away games or matches for the Spartans will be at least a 77 mile trip.

For Lima Sr. they are the biggest school in the area of small farm community schools and have been shunned by every area conference over the years…so traveling a long way for a league game is nothing new to them.

Over the years things have changed in education and this is one of those situations. the increase of the population in suburban districts has made the differences over the years. Realistically not every school will win as many games as they wanted when deciding to make the move. The IAC will now offer those 10 schools, who left the CIML, the opportunities to be successful, the mindset should be that in the future these schools can be competitive.