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The Cornbelt Conference is one of the oldest high school athletic conferences in Iowa. Tracing its history to the 1930s, the Cornbelt has always been a conference filled by smaller schools. Beginning in the late 1970s, frequent membership changes happened because the league consisted of some of the smallest schools in the state. Currently, the conference has 6 teams, but four members will be leaving in 2014, and another is exploring options for whole grade sharing that would end its independent sports program.
|Institution||Location||Mascot||Colors||Affiliation||9-11 Enrollment (2012-2013)||News|
|Clay Central-Everly||Everly||Mavericks||Public||72||Moved to the War Eagle Conference in 2015|
|Graettinger-Terril/Ruthven-Ayrshire||Graettinger||Titans||Public||63/52||Moved to the Twin Lakes Conference in 2014|
|Harris-Lake Park||Lake Park||Wolves||Public||65||Moved to the War Eagle Conference in 2014|
|North Union||Armstrong||Warriors||Public||159||Moved to the NIC in 2014|
|West Bend-Mallard||West Bend||Wolverines||Public||86||Moved to the Twin Lakes Conference in 2014|
The conference began with members in Ruthven, Titonka, Swea City, Sioux Rapids, Marathon, West Bend, Terril, and Graettinger. In 1955, Mallard joined the league. Thompson and Armstrong followed in 1956. For the 1958-59 school year, four schools (Titonka, Armstrong, Swea City, and Thompson) left the league to form the new Stateline Conference. After Sioux Valley was formed from the consolidation of the three very small, rural districts around 1960, they became the eighth member of the league. Everly also joined the league during the 1970s.
In 1981 the league added all six remaining members of the Clay Conference to the fold. Due to Marathon's departure in 1977 to join with Laurens, this left the league at 14 schools: the eight existing league schools, as well as Ayrshire, South Clay, Clay Central, Ocheyedan, Harris-Lake Park, and Arnolds Park. Still, many of the schools were small and were weighing their options for further consolidation. Sioux Rapids had merged with Rembrandt in 1980, causing the Clay Conference to look at other options. Now, throughout the 1980s, a series of mergers further changed the conference.
In 1984, Ruthven and Ayrshire consolidated. Albert City-Truesdale joined the league from the Twin Lakes to keep membership at 14. The next season Ocheyedan left the league to merge with a larger school, Sibley. In 1988, Arnolds Park High School was closed, as its district was merged with Milford to form Okoboji High School. Clay Central and Everly merged the next year, leaving the conference with 11 schools. In 1991, membership was boosted back to 14 despite Sioux Rapids-Rembrandt and Sioux Valley merging to become Sioux Central. The Stateline Conference folded, leaving the Cornbelt to pickup league members Lincoln Central in Gruver, Armstrong-Ringsted, Sentral-Burt of Fenton, and North Kossuth in Swea City. Membership decreased back to 12 the next season as West Bend merged with Mallard and Lincoln Central left the conference after one season to merge with much larger Estherville High School. South Clay closed its high school for the 1994-95 school year, allowing its students the freedom to attend whichever school they prefer. However, many went to Sioux Central. Membership dipped to eight in 1996-97. Albert City-Truesdale and Sioux Central left the league to help found the Northwest Conference. Meanwhile, Terril began sharing sports with Ruthven-Ayrshire under the name Lakeland.
The eight team league persisted until 2005, although there were some changes in sharing agreements. The Burt school district merged with Algona, leaving Sentral of Fenton by itself. Ruthven-Ayrshire began competing once again without Terril. Terril, still hurting for numbers, entered into sports sharing agreement with Graettinger. In 2005, the conference expanded from 8 to 12 schools, as it picked up a set of members of a dying conference for the third time. These schools, formerly of the North Star Conference, where C-W-L, TRV of Bode, Ventura, and W-CL-T.
Despite this additional shot in the arm, the league continued to suffer membership losses due to consolidation. Sentral and North Kossuth merged effective 2007-08 school year to become North Sentral Kossuth High School. Beginning with the 2010-11 school year, the conference lost Twin River Valley and W-CL-T as members. Both had been products of whole grade sharing agreements between two districts and in an interesting twist, the two districts decided to begin sharing with separate nearby schools. Woden-Crystal Lake began, for example, sending its high school students to Forest City High School, while Titonka sent its 5-12 students to Algona. Twin River Valley split up in a similar fashion, sending students to Humboldt Community School District and to West Bend-Mallard. In 2012, Ventura followed those schools out the door. It decided to combine with Garner-Hayfield School District in the North Iowa Conference. Meanwhile, North Sentral's merger agreement to share sports with Armstrong-Ringsted under the name North Union, and a similar agreement between Greattinger-Terril and Ruthven-Ayrshire, left the conference with just six members for the 2012-13 school year.
North Union, as by far the largest school in the conference, immediately sought to find a new home for its athletic teams. It reached out to the North Iowa Conference, who accepted its bid to join the league. North Union will join the NIC in 2014. This move left the other schools in the undesirable position of operating a five team conference. Administrators at other schools quickly decided that not only was it not viable to operate a five team league, but that there were no real options for further league expansion. Because of this, all the remaining members began applying to other leagues. G-T/R-A, and West Bend-Mallard were accepted into the Twin Lakes (North Division) in 2014. Harris-Lake Park has also been successful in finding a new home. In 2014, it will join the War Eagle Conference along with independent Trinity Christian. Clay Central-Everly has reached out to both the Twin Lakes and the War Eagle, but has not been accepted into either league. C-W-L, as one of the smallest schools in the state, has decided to disband starting the 2015-16 school year, with only LuVerne sharing sports with Algona
- "Iowa High School Athletic Association BEDS Document" (PDF). Retrieved October 6, 2013.
- Christoffel, Ryan (24 April 2013). "Titans accepted into Twin Lakes". Dickinson County News. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
- Christoffel, Ryan (March 11, 2013). "War Eagle Conference accepts Harris-Lake Park". Dickinson County News. Retrieved October 8, 2013.
- Countryman, Nathan (March 7, 2014). "Corwith-Wesley dissolution board formed". Algona Upper Des Moines. Retrieved May 29, 2014.