Camdenton becomes eighth member of CMAC

When the Central Missouri Activities Conference was formed in 2020, there were seven members.

But there was always an interest in adding an eighth school.

On Wednesday, the conference added the school they always wanted as Camdenton was announced to be the eighth member starting in the 2024-25 school year. Camdenton will be a member of the Ozark Conference until it disbands at the end of this school year.

“I definitely heard from an AD here and there at least once a year,” Camdenton athletic director Bill Kurtz said. “It was nice to hear from them, but we had no reason to leave from where we were. We had a good home with 10 football schools.

“We didn’t want to go somewhere just to win more football games or feel like we had more power. We never had the impetus to move.”

The CMAC is glad to be adding Camdenton.

“It’s very exciting to get them, we always thought they’d be a good fit,” Helias athletic director Dwayne Clingman said. “They have a great tradition in sports, being very competitive in everything they do.”

“I think it’s a good thing,” Jefferson City football coach and athletic director Damon Wells said. “I think anything to make the conference continually stronger is good for everybody. Iron sharpens iron, so I think they will fit right in.”

A flurry of movements in the past couple of weeks in conferences in Southwest Missouri brought Camdenton to the CMAC.

“I didn’t understand the push on some of it,” Kurtz said.

The Ozark Conference was steadily losing members until just Camdenton, Lebanon, Rolla and Waynesville remained.

“We have some strong traditions with Lebanon, with Rolla, with Waynesville,” Kurtz said. “It was good competition.”

The four looked to remain together as a group, wherever they ended up, but that didn’t happen. Lebanon and Waynesville announced they were joining the Central Ozark Conference, with Rolla not having said what its plans are yet.

“We’d made some promises to each other, but then it became obvious that it would be best for a couple of schools if they could get into the COC and get a full football schedule,” Kurtz said. “I think the four of us would still say we did our best to stay together, but it would be bad for all of us to stay together for the sake of three football games.”

The CMAC is currently comprised of Capital City, Helias and Jefferson City along with three Columbia schools -- Battle, Hickman and Rock Bridge -- and Sedalia Smith-Cotton.

“It was kind of crazy because their conference was falling apart, like a lot of other conferences around Missouri are falling apart,” Capital City athletic director Robert Ndessokia said. “They came to us and a couple other schools came to us. As they were coming to us, we had a conversation with our conference schools about it, we were all open to adding good competition. The pieces just that way where they were the only ones that were available to come in.”

Kurtz said the locations of the seven played a role in Camdenton deciding to come north.

“We could have gone southwest and gotten over a few little things, but we know the drive to Jefferson City and Columbia,” he said. “But the times driving almost three hours (in Southwest Missouri) to get to all of those schools on a Monday or a Tuesday or a Thursday for a lot of sports, we wanted to do right by our kids and that would have been terrible for our kids, in my opinion.

“That may have been the biggest thing that turned us off to certain situations.”

Kurtz, who started his teaching career at Hickman, said Camdenton is familiar with a lot of its new conference foes.

“We’ve played most of the schools over the years in the CMAC,” Kurtz said. “We know the people, we know it’s good competition.”

Capital City football coach Joe Collier believes Camdenton joining the CMAC says a lot about the state of the conference.

“I think it says we’re in a good place,” Collier said. “We’ve got tough competition, I think it says more about Camdenton, that they want to compete. They looked into our conference and wanted that smoke, kudos to them. I know a lot of teams would see Rock Bridge and Helias and think that schedule is probably not what they want. But Camdenton feels ready for it.”

Capital City will travel Friday to Camdenton for a Class 5 District 5 semifinal game.

With seven conference schools, CMAC football teams have had Weeks 1 and 9 open for non-conference games as well as a third sometime in Weeks 2-8. It is expected the non-conference games will remain in Weeks 1 and 9.

“I think part of the high school experience is to experience different things,” Wells said. “The flexibility to have two non-conference games still allows for something different periodically if that’s what you choose.”

The conference ADs will meet later this month to come up with a new schedule.

“In a perfect world, we’d just plug Camdenton into everyone’s non-conference week,” Clingman said. “But we’re going to see what’s best for everybody.”

There could be some changes coming to conference schedule for the original teams.

“It’s an opportunity to look at the entire thing and make any changes anybody wants if we can,” Clingman said. “But we don’t know what kind of contracts Camdenton has, so we’re going to look at the whole thing.”

The football schedule has been the same -- home one year, away the second in the same week -- for the first four years of the CMAC.

“We have a conference meeting next week, so hopefully we can get a lot of kinks worked out,” Ndessokia said. “Putting together a football schedule is hard, but we are going to do our best to make sure we come up with a good formula for everybody.”

Camdenton’s nine regular-season games in recent years have all been Ozark Conference contests. The addition means the renewal of the Camdenton-Helias rivalry, which went away when the Lakers had a full regular-season conference schedule.

“Helias and Webb City are the two schools I’m aware of that we’ve played multiple times and our record is right around .500,” Kurtz said. “When Camdenton plays, we think we’re going to ‘Laker’ these guys, they might have a little better team but we’re going to stick with them and we’re going to beat them and normally we do.

“We know Helias is the type of team that’s going to walk onto the field and think they’re going to beat Camdenton. And that’s awesome, to compete against somebody like that. We’re excited to play games like that.”

Helias football coach Chris Hentges is happy to see a quality program enter the conference.

“We had a long-standing rivalry with them, even when we were in the NCMC, we still played them,” Hentges said. “They’ve always been big and physical and well-coached.

“It’s great to have them, I have always believed that a conference should have an even number, especially in football.”

The CMAC remains open to adding more schools down the road.

“This is Year 4, so moving forward with eight is great,” Ndessokia said. “If we can add, we’d want to add an even number obviously, two more would be even better. But right now we are happy and satisfied with eight. We don’t know what the future holds.”

Camdenton has won nine Missouri State High School Activities Association state championships in school history -- five in football (1986, 1987, 1995, 1999 and 2005) to go along with two in boys basketball (1939 and 1941) and one each in boys (1973) and girls (2017) track and field.