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With Kearney, Norfolk expected to bolt, the death of GNAC may be inevitable

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The Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference (GNAC) is like the man who has one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel.

After a meeting of the GNAC Activities Directors in North Platte on Tuesday, Jan. 31, the future of the conference looks grim.

“Two schools, Kearney and Norfolk, have applied to go to the Heartland Athletic Conference, also known as the HAC,” Activities Director Dave Hoxworth said.

Both schools hope to see better competition and acceptance in HAC may be the ticket.

“They want to get into that Heartland Conference which includes the Lincoln schools, so I think they anticipate better competition,” Hoxworth said. “I think that this conference consisting of bigger school would be better for them with a growing community for Class A.”

If those two schools are accepted into HAC at a meeting later this month as expected, it could spell the end of GNAC.

“The state of it would leave us with six teams, and everybody really wants to see the conference survive, so we’re going to try to recruit a couple of schools.””

— David Hoxworth Activities Director

“We fully anticipate them being accepted into the HAC, and so when that happens they will notify us officially. They both plan on accepting the invitation if they get it offered,” Hoxworth said.

According to the GNAC bylaws, if Kearney and Norfolk leave the conference, both schools are required to stay part of GNAC for two years in order for the conference to seek out and recruit other teams to replace them.

Both schools, however, have specified they would like to be out in one year.

“They would like to stay for one year and exit a year early, so as of right now the 2017-2018 year will be exactly the same,” Hoxworth said.  “We’ll have the GNAC for one more year, but we have to collaborate as the rest of the AD’s whether we’re going to let them out a year early or not.”

According to Hoxworth, both schools claim they want to have integrity by having good character as they exit GNAC.

Kearney and Norfolk are not the only teams who may have been looking for membership in another conference.

McCook, the smallest school in GNAC, has been accepted into the Southwest Conference, which consists of Ainsworth, Broken Bow, Cozad, Gothenburg, McCook, Minden, Ogallala, and Valentine, all predominately Class C-1 schools.

GNAC, which was created in 1992, consists of Columbus, Hastings, Kearney, Lexington, McCook, Norfolk, North Platte, and Scottsbluff.

The rest of the schools involved with GNAC have been expecting Kearney and Norfolk to be accepted into the HAC conference.

Even if Kearney and Norfolk decide not to stay in the conference it does not mean the conference will die.

“The state of it would leave us with six teams, and everybody really wants to see the conference survive, so we’re going to try to recruit a couple of schools,” Hoxworth said. “So on March 7, we’re going to invite some schools to hear about our conference and to see if it’d be a good match.”

The possible teams that might receive an invitation into GNAC consist of Gering, Beatrice, Kearney Catholic, Aurora, York, Holdrege, and Grand Island North West.

Hoxworth said if any of these schools are interested in being recruited into GNAC, they would be required to follow the procedures of filling out an application and explaining why they would like to join the conference.

One of the strengths of the GNAC conference is that it provides a major tournament for seven team sports (boys and girls cross country, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls basketball, swimming, softball, and wrestling).

Hoxworth said the solution to replacing those tournaments would be finding other games.

“If we lost them we would have to fill them with games whether we would pay Colorado front range teams or we would play more schools in Wyoming,” Hoxworth said.

Hoxworth doesn’t foresee Scottsbluff in another conference.

“There’s nothing really out here. There’s Western Trails but we’re too big of a school for those,” Hoxworth said.

Eastern Nebraska has a few conferences out there, however, Hoxworth stated that it would be tough on them due to the travel constraint.

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