Chris Bergeron, athletic director at Andover High School, speaks with residents during a special meeting about the possibility of Andover leaving the Merrimack Valley Conference. Only around 20 people attended the meeting.

Other than the games and meets against Central Catholic High School, one local dad said his daughters' track and volleyball schedule at Andover High School is a "sleepwalk."

"The sub-varsity schedule, other than Central, is a sleepwalk," said dad Paul Cronin, who supports moving Andover out of the Merrimack Valley Conference and joining the more competitive Dual County League.

John Konevich, whose sophomore son plays basketball at AHS, nodded in agreement.

But soccer parent Mike Rivet said he wants Andover to stay in the MVC.

"There's diversity for kids in the MVC and that's considered a positive," Rivet said.

AHS Athletic Director Chris Bergeron held a meeting Monday night to talk about the benefits and challenges of changing sports leagues at AHS.

The big benefit of leaving the MVC to join DCL is stronger competition. But MVC's close-to-home location and Central Catholic rivalry is also important. After the public input, it was decided that Andover will apply for athletic membership in the DCL. The deadline is May 1.

But that application is just the first step in the process. Principals of DCL schools still have to approve admitting Andover to the league. That decision would be made by the end of this school year. If approved, the league switch would happen in the fall of 2013, when this year's freshmen are seniors at AHS.

"The application just gives us a seat at the table," Bergeron said. "We have nothing to lose by applying."

It was a sparse crowd of parents, coaches and residents at the Collins Center even though acting AHS principal Tom Sharkey thought the league switch was "a burning issue" in town. Only about 20 people attended the meeting.

Andover has a long MVC tradition. The town has been in the MVC for some 40 years. A big benefit is the Andover-Central Catholic rivalry across the board in all sports. Those games bring out fans and always make money for the athletic budget from big ticket sales.

A Dual County membership would bring new rivalries, Bergeron said.

"Our teams play many Dual County towns in the state finals," he said.

But a key challenge is that the 1,000 athletes on AHS teams would have to travel further to play. That would cut into homework and family time and cost more money.

Bergeron said a league switch would cost the athletic department about $22,450. Increasing the $350 athletic fee at AHS by $25, increasing rental rates and getting sponsorships may be the way to cover the increased costs.

"But nothing is firm," Bergeron said.

Coaches want to stay in the MVC, Bergeron said, but he wants AHS to have a backup plan in case some schools leave MVC. There has been talk of Dracut and Tewksbury leaving the MVC, which would bring membership to eight schools — Andover, Billerica, Chelmsford, Methuen, Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill and Central Catholic. That's a workable sports schedule for AHS.

The Eagle-Tribune has reported that Chelmsford and Billerica have been major proponents of leaving the MVC. That's what started the need for action in Andover.

Bergeron wants to be prepared and having the Dual County League application submitted is a good first step in case MVC membership changes, he said.

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