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Conference Realignment - What's Coming in the Next Round?


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One of the most highly discussed and debated topics relative to high school football is the one involving conference affiliation.
 
More than most states in the US, conferences remain at the core of high school athletics in Indiana, primarily due to the fact that we do not use a qualifying system to advance to post season play, with all teams and all individual athletes having an equal opportunity to compete for state championships.
 
Conference Championships, at both the individual and team level, are still meaningful and important in Indiana, and will remain that way.
 
Conferences in many states have been blown up in favor of districts, sections, clusters, divisions, regions, you name it. Once that conference connection has been lost, that feeling of belonging and inclusion is very hard to ever get back.
 
This is why Indiana holds it conferences as sacred and absolutely vital to the success of Individual athletes and teams throughout the state.
 
So when it comes to changes to these critically important conferences, people get emotional and possessive and opinionated, and a hundred other emotions are likely to emerge. That's what makes it such a juicy discussion topic.
 
We've seen quite a few changes over the past few years, some subtle, some earth shaking.
 
Some of the bigger moves are as follows :
 
* Center Grove and Carmel's departure from The MIC
* Mishawka's move to the NLC
* Jasper and Vincennes jump to the SIAC
* Franklin Central sneaks into the HCC
* Perry Meridian joins the Mid State
* The SAC opens up to non con play
* The PAC absorbs the Big 8.
 
Several others are pending :
 
* Cascade is leaving The ICC
* Hanover Central is joining the Northwest Crossroads
* Gary West Side is joining the GSSC
 
There are plenty of others, big school and small school.
 
So what will the next round of conference moves look like, and who are some schools that either might already be contemplating a change, or should consider one given current competitive circumstances ?
 
1. Shelbyville
The Golden Bear athletic program has hit on rough times, with no team suffering more than the varsity football program. The Bears are 2-35 since Pat Parks retired after the 2017 season, 1-27 in Hoosier Heritage Conference play over that span. Enrollment is stagnant, and the school is stuck right in the middle of Class 4A. The HHC is heading in one direction, and Shelbyville is heading in another. Look for this school to find a new home in the near future.
 
2. Greenwood
Greenwood is another school that is getting smaller while everyone else in their conference is getting bigger. With just under 1200 students, the Woodmen are competing against schools much larger in 5A and 6A, and are struggling to keep up. The City of Greenwood is completely full with little land for new development. The Mid State is a great conference and nobody wants to leave it. GHS may be forced out at some point given the current enrollment and competitive trends in the conference.
 
3. Indian Creek
I continue to look at Trafalgar, Indiana on the state map, and I ask myself, "what is Indian Creek doing in the Western Indiana Conference?" The Creek has had very little success in The WIC relative to conference championships in team sports, and the travel expense and burden on the athletes, coaches, families and fans must be brutal. Wouldn't it make some sense for IC to play in the Indianapolis based Indiana Crossroads Conference? Maybe that's too logical.
 
(Aren't Indian Creek, Greenwood and Shelbyville fairly close together? hmmm)
 
4. The Duneland Conference
The DAC is a bit like a country club. Admission is very tough to achieve. Once you have it, you tend to hang on for life. Hobart left the Duneland in 2003 when the other conference schools outgrew the Brickies and the championship machine suddenly dried up in the post Don Howell era. Laporte is going thru some similar struggles. The Slicers are positioned right between the NIC and the DAC, and geographically could go either way. I would not be shocked to see Laporte and Michigan City move east for a combination of competitive and travel reasons and join the Northern Indiana Conference at some point.
 
5. Wawasee
The Warriors played Roncalli for a state championship in 2004, lost that game and it has been downhill ever since. The athletic program is struggling to compete in the NLC amid declining participation numbers. There is no clear path to success for Wawasee. A new home might be the better long term solution.
 
6. Conference Indiana
This conference has seen more change than any other in Indiana over the past 20 years. Schools have come and gone regularly and despite some stability over the past 5 years, there is no long lasting permanency due to changes coming in the Terre Haute school system, where TH North and South will likely both be remodeled and downsized with a new 3A size school opening as well. These changes could push expansion in The WIC and put the final nail in the Conference Indiana coffin. Bloomington North and South should be proactive and join the Hoosier Hills, and Columbus North is a strong candidate for inclusion into The Mid State. Southport, which was left out in the cold by rivals Franklin Central and Perry Meridian, should be able to find a home in the Circle City Conference.
 
7. West Lafayette
The Red Devils absolutely own the Hoosier, losing only 3 conference games in 7 years, two of those to the great LCC teams that won consecutive state titles. WL would transition seamlessly into The NCC, and play meaningful football games weekly against Harrison, Jeff, McCutcheon, Kokomo, Logansport, Muncie Central, Marion, etc. This program unfortunately sleepwalks thru an overmatched schedule at times, which may cost it in terms of post season preparation. Its tough to sharpen the stone weekly when your winning 48-0 at halftime and playing running clock football for half the season.
 
8. Center Grove
Conference membership means more to Center Grove than it does to Carmel. Conference and County championships are celebrated in White River Township, while the Carmel crew is focused primarily on state title hardware. Look for CG to make another run at The HCC, this time flying solo, and getting unanimous acceptance..
 
9. Indianapolis Tech
With Carmel and Center Grove gone, The MIC is now an urban conference, and Tech belongs and deserves a shot to join this group. With the proper investments in coaching and equipment, Tech can compete. This school should not be traveling all over the state in the NCC for conference play when it has 6 MIC like minded schools in its backyard.
 
10. Northwest Crossroads
The addition of Hanover Central in 2023 is a good start for The NCC, but a full expansion to 10 schools including Hammond Central, Hammond Morton and East Chicago would significantly expand the leagues competitive profile, Solves a lot of scheduling headaches as well for conference ADs.

img-ConferenceRealignment.jpg

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31 minutes ago, southend said:

#4, country club. 
You put out those famous HHF isms. Very funny if I may say. 
this seems to get in the way of a he meat of your post. But I’m still reading. Good stuff. 

The objective of the post is to both entertain and inform.  

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At one time there was talk of a Sagamore & Hoosier conference partnership.  Not sure where it ended, but haven’t heard anything lately.  Honestly, it sounded like a good idea.  Might have been good for some of the doormats in these 2 conferences.  There would be 3 divisions of 6 teams based on enrollment/competitive balance.

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I believe Vincennes Lincoln is looking to depart the SIAC.  They have not been competitive and would benefit from going to a smaller conference. 

Where do they go?

Will the SIAC look for another member IF VL leaves?

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#11.  Frankfort.  The Hot Dogs need to either a:  switch conference affiliations with West Lafayette (a Sagamore conference with the River Rats, Bruins, and Warriors battling it out year after year would be interesting)  or b) petition to join the Hoosier Heartland Conference.  

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12 minutes ago, Coach_K said:

I believe Vincennes Lincoln is looking to depart the SIAC.  They have not been competitive and would benefit from going to a smaller conference. 

Where do they go?

Will the SIAC look for another member IF VL leaves?

They were planning to leave, but VL is deciding to stay in the SIAC.

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If Michigan City and LaPorte leave the DAC, how does that help the DAC, especially now that the best two teams in football outside of MC are in 5A and how does it help the athletic departments for Michigan City and LaPorte when they already play most of the NIC teams in other sports except gymnastics?

I am assuming you are basing this on football solely. 

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Cascade will depart from the Indiana Crossroads Conference at the conclusion of next season and return to the WIC . Candidates have been discussed but nothing official has been announced. Teams simply mentioned via word of mouth who might be interested and would be good fits (Again I'm not saying these teams have even applied for membership just more merely discussed among coaches and member schools) . 

1) Covenant Christian 

2) Western Boone 

3) Park Tutor (rejoin) 

4) Indian Creek 

5) Lapel (rejoin) 

IMO Covenant would be the best fit . It would give a balance of private and public schools . Geography makes a lot of sense. Would maintain a competitive balance beneficial to Covenant and the other member schools. 

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Just a reminder for those playing along with DT's thought exercise - football is only one of 20 IHSAA-sanctioned sports and a school that may be struggling in football may still be a good fit in a conference in terms of geography, school population and competitiveness in other sports. 

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I generally make it a point to not respond to DT/HHF's "throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-what sticks" clickbait, but 

*-Shelbyville - I figure it's a matter of when, not if, the Golden Bears go to the EIAC. 

*-Greenwood - could replace Shelbyville in the Hoosier Heritage. They were apparently interested when Rushville left but the district admin insisted they remain in the Mid-State. 

*-Indian Creek: Isolated. It's a mid-sized 3A school without any 3A schools nearby. It's basically stuck with Brown County & Edgewood. That's why it's in the WIC. It could possibly join the Indiana Crossroads, but travel is going to be a nightmare no matter where it goes. It's not joining a league with 4A Shelbyville & Greenwood. 

*-Southport: The Circle City Conference is a private school league. Southport's not going there. If/when Conference Indiana blows up, I'd expect them to possibly try to latch on with either the Mid-State or the Hoosier Heritage. Have no idea what Columbus North and the Bloomington schools do in that scenario - possibly try to join an expanded Mid-State? 

*-Tech could compete in the MIC in basketball and really not in much of anything else. It would get destroyed in football. Geographically, the NCC is a terrible fit, but competitively, it's a good one. 

*-Center Grove: It'll be in the HCC in the near future once the kerfluffle over them leaving the MIC blows over. 

 

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1 hour ago, EasyEJay said:

Cascade will depart from the Indiana Crossroads Conference at the conclusion of next season and return to the WIC . Candidates have been discussed but nothing official has been announced. Teams simply mentioned via word of mouth who might be interested and would be good fits (Again I'm not saying these teams have even applied for membership just more merely discussed among coaches and member schools) . 

1) Covenant Christian 

2) Western Boone 

3) Park Tutor (rejoin) 

4) Indian Creek 

5) Lapel (rejoin) 

IMO Covenant would be the best fit . It would give a balance of private and public schools . Geography makes a lot of sense. Would maintain a competitive balance beneficial to Covenant and the other member schools. 

I don't see this for WeBo... Going to Triton Central for a Thursday Night Freshman Basketball game makes zero sense... Football wise, maybe.  not for the other Sports.

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17 minutes ago, crimsonace1 said:

Just a reminder for those playing along with DT's thought exercise - football is only one of 20 IHSAA-sanctioned sports and a school that may be struggling in football may still be a good fit in a conference in terms of geography, school population and competitiveness in other sports. 

Exactly... Or just because is school is good in football it may not be a good fit in terms of geography, school population, & competitiveness in other sports.. 

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41 minutes ago, crimsonace1 said:

I generally make it a point to not respond to DT/HHF's "throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-what sticks" clickbait, but 

*-Shelbyville - I figure it's a matter of when, not if, the Golden Bears go to the EIAC. 

*-Greenwood - could replace Shelbyville in the Hoosier Heritage. They were apparently interested when Rushville left but the district admin insisted they remain in the Mid-State. 

*-Indian Creek: Isolated. It's a mid-sized 3A school without any 3A schools nearby. It's basically stuck with Brown County & Edgewood. That's why it's in the WIC. It could possibly join the Indiana Crossroads, but travel is going to be a nightmare no matter where it goes. It's not joining a league with 4A Shelbyville & Greenwood. 

*-Southport: The Circle City Conference is a private school league. Southport's not going there. If/when Conference Indiana blows up, I'd expect them to possibly try to latch on with either the Mid-State or the Hoosier Heritage. Have no idea what Columbus North and the Bloomington schools do in that scenario - possibly try to join an expanded Mid-State? 

*-Tech could compete in the MIC in basketball and really not in much of anything else. It would get destroyed in football. Geographically, the NCC is a terrible fit, but competitively, it's a good one. 

 

You're coming around.  Slowly but surely. 

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29 minutes ago, 1st_and_10 said:

Exactly... Or just because is school is good in football it may not be a good fit in terms of geography, school population, & competitiveness in other sports.. 

But, as always, football drives the bus and pays the bills.  Many schools stay in conferences and get crushed year after year but are happy to use the funds earned from gate receipts to pay for their other sports.  Schools like Frankfort, Connersville, Rushville, Wawasee, Kankakee Valley, Benton Central, Caston and many others are all in this boat.  

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6 minutes ago, HHF said:

But, as always, football drives the bus and pays the bills.  Many schools stay in conferences and get crushed year after year but are happy to use the funds earned from gate receipts to pay for their other sports.  Schools like Frankfort, Connersville, Rushville, Wawasee, Kankakee Valley, Benton Central, Caston and many others are all in this boat.  

Connersville & Rushville fit well geographically and school-wise in the EIAC. There's really no place else for either to go. 

In Connersville's case, they struggle in football but they are annually one of the top teams in the league in basketball (which is the sport that drives the bus and pays the bills in that community) and generally competitive in baseball, softball, et al. Rushville is generally a title contender in girls basketball (again, a major sport in that town). 

Benton Central generally has good basketball and baseball teams, so again, a decent fit even if they struggle in football. 

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2 hours ago, EasyEJay said:

Cascade will depart from the Indiana Crossroads Conference at the conclusion of next season and return to the WIC . Candidates have been discussed but nothing official has been announced. Teams simply mentioned via word of mouth who might be interested and would be good fits (Again I'm not saying these teams have even applied for membership just more merely discussed among coaches and member schools) . 

1) Covenant Christian 

2) Western Boone 

3) Park Tutor (rejoin) 

4) Indian Creek 

5) Lapel (rejoin) 

IMO Covenant would be the best fit . It would give a balance of private and public schools . Geography makes a lot of sense. Would maintain a competitive balance beneficial to Covenant and the other member schools. 

Why would Webos leave the Sagamores?

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58 minutes ago, 1st_and_10 said:

I don't see this for WeBo... Going to Triton Central for a Thursday Night Freshman Basketball game makes zero sense... Football wise, maybe.  not for the other Sports.

WeBo is already in the Sagamore and has been for a long time. It fits perfectly in with nearby rivals who are 3As and small 4As. It's a perfect fit and there's no real reason for them to go anywhere. 

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3 hours ago, Coach_K said:

I believe Vincennes Lincoln is looking to depart the SIAC.  They have not been competitive and would benefit from going to a smaller conference. 

Where do they go?

Will the SIAC look for another member IF VL leaves?

The Big Eight was such a good and perfect league. A league of mostly 3A county-seat schools in southwestern Indiana (and southeastern Illinois, in Mt. Carmel's case). Have no idea how or why that broke apart. But it's going to leave some schools scrambling to find a conference. 

VL should go to the Pocket, which in turn should split into two conferences. 

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24 minutes ago, HHF said:

But, as always, football drives the bus and pays the bills.  Many schools stay in conferences and get crushed year after year but are happy to use the funds earned from gate receipts to pay for their other sports.  Schools like Frankfort, Connersville, Rushville, Wawasee, Kankakee Valley, Benton Central, Caston and many others are all in this boat.  

This seems to speak to the idea that competitive balance for the state's football may not be the best answer for individual schools/programs and thus, contraction may actually hurt schools where the idea is not necessarily to win sectionals, but instead to provide enough funding to support their other sports.

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19 hours ago, HHF said:
One of the most highly discussed and debated topics relative to high school football is the one involving conference affiliation.
 
More than most states in the US, conferences remain at the core of high school athletics in Indiana, primarily due to the fact that we do not use a qualifying system to advance to post season play, with all teams and all individual athletes having an equal opportunity to compete for state championships.
 
Conference Championships, at both the individual and team level, are still meaningful and important in Indiana, and will remain that way.
 
Conferences in many states have been blown up in favor of districts, sections, clusters, divisions, regions, you name it. Once that conference connection has been lost, that feeling of belonging and inclusion is very hard to ever get back.
 
This is why Indiana holds it conferences as sacred and absolutely vital to the success of Individual athletes and teams throughout the state.
 
So when it comes to changes to these critically important conferences, people get emotional and possessive and opinionated, and a hundred other emotions are likely to emerge. That's what makes it such a juicy discussion topic.
 
We've seen quite a few changes over the past few years, some subtle, some earth shaking.
 
Some of the bigger moves are as follows :
 
* Center Grove and Carmel's departure from The MIC
* Mishawka's move to the NLC
* Jasper and Vincennes jump to the SIAC
* Franklin Central sneaks into the HCC
* Perry Meridian joins the Mid State
* The SAC opens up to non con play
* The PAC absorbs the Big 8.
 
Several others are pending :
 
* Cascade is leaving The ICC
* Hanover Central is joining the Northwest Crossroads
* Gary West Side is joining the GSSC
 
There are plenty of others, big school and small school.
 
So what will the next round of conference moves look like, and who are some schools that either might already be contemplating a change, or should consider one given current competitive circumstances ?
 
1. Shelbyville
The Golden Bear athletic program has hit on rough times, with no team suffering more than the varsity football program. The Bears are 2-35 since Pat Parks retired after the 2017 season, 1-27 in Hoosier Heritage Conference play over that span. Enrollment is stagnant, and the school is stuck right in the middle of Class 4A. The HHC is heading in one direction, and Shelbyville is heading in another. Look for this school to find a new home in the near future.
 
2. Greenwood
Greenwood is another school that is getting smaller while everyone else in their conference is getting bigger. With just under 1200 students, the Woodmen are competing against schools much larger in 5A and 6A, and are struggling to keep up. The City of Greenwood is completely full with little land for new development. The Mid State is a great conference and nobody wants to leave it. GHS may be forced out at some point given the current enrollment and competitive trends in the conference.
 
3. Indian Creek
I continue to look at Trafalgar, Indiana on the state map, and I ask myself, "what is Indian Creek doing in the Western Indiana Conference?" The Creek has had very little success in The WIC relative to conference championships in team sports, and the travel expense and burden on the athletes, coaches, families and fans must be brutal. Wouldn't it make some sense for IC to play in the Indianapolis based Indiana Crossroads Conference? Maybe that's too logical.
 
(Aren't Indian Creek, Greenwood and Shelbyville fairly close together? hmmm)
 
4. The Duneland Conference
The DAC is a bit like a country club. Admission is very tough to achieve. Once you have it, you tend to hang on for life. Hobart left the Duneland in 2003 when the other conference schools outgrew the Brickies and the championship machine suddenly dried up in the post Don Howell era. Laporte is going thru some similar struggles. The Slicers are positioned right between the NIC and the DAC, and geographically could go either way. I would not be shocked to see Laporte and Michigan City move east for a combination of competitive and travel reasons and join the Northern Indiana Conference at some point.
 
5. Wawasee
The Warriors played Roncalli for a state championship in 2004, lost that game and it has been downhill ever since. The athletic program is struggling to compete in the NLC amid declining participation numbers. There is no clear path to success for Wawasee. A new home might be the better long term solution.
 
6. Conference Indiana
This conference has seen more change than any other in Indiana over the past 20 years. Schools have come and gone regularly and despite some stability over the past 5 years, there is no long lasting permanency due to changes coming in the Terre Haute school system, where TH North and South will likely both be remodeled and downsized with a new 3A size school opening as well. These changes could push expansion in The WIC and put the final nail in the Conference Indiana coffin. Bloomington North and South should be proactive and join the Hoosier Hills, and Columbus North is a strong candidate for inclusion into The Mid State. Southport, which was left out in the cold by rivals Franklin Central and Perry Meridian, should be able to find a home in the Circle City Conference.
 
7. West Lafayette
The Red Devils absolutely own the Hoosier, losing only 3 conference games in 7 years, two of those to the great LCC teams that won consecutive state titles. WL would transition seamlessly into The NCC, and play meaningful football games weekly against Harrison, Jeff, McCutcheon, Kokomo, Logansport, Muncie Central, Marion, etc. This program unfortunately sleepwalks thru an overmatched schedule at times, which may cost it in terms of post season preparation. Its tough to sharpen the stone weekly when your winning 48-0 at halftime and playing running clock football for half the season.
 
8. Center Grove
Conference membership means more to Center Grove than it does to Carmel. Conference and County championships are celebrated in White River Township, while the Carmel crew is focused primarily on state title hardware. Look for CG to make another run at The HCC, this time flying solo, and getting unanimous acceptance..
 
9. Indianapolis Tech
With Carmel and Center Grove gone, The MIC is now an urban conference, and Tech belongs and deserves a shot to join this group. With the proper investments in coaching and equipment, Tech can compete. This school should not be traveling all over the state in the NCC for conference play when it has 6 MIC like minded schools in its backyard.
 
10. Northwest Crossroads
The addition of Hanover Central in 2023 is a good start for The NCC, but a full expansion to 10 schools including Hammond Central, Hammond Morton and East Chicago would significantly expand the leagues competitive profile, Solves a lot of scheduling headaches as well for conference ADs.

img-ConferenceRealignment.jpg

West Lafayettes would be ok in football, and both track and cross country teams are usually top 10 programs. But other sports might not be as competitive. Except one or 2 of their really smart kids goes to the finals in tennis quite often. I gotta go 

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19 minutes ago, crimsonace1 said:

WeBo is already in the Sagamore and has been for a long time. It fits perfectly in with nearby rivals who are 3As and small 4As. It's a perfect fit and there's no real reason for them to go anywhere. 

I am not sure the Sagamore survives in the next 2-3 years... Gut feel.  @superjay mentioned something I hadn't heard, but it's certainly interesting... Just don't know the level of detail that would go into putting something like that together.  I just wonder if Danville, Tri-West, Lebanon all outgrow the Sag and start looking for something that makes more sense for them to prepare for playoffs... Danville has approved 3 new housing neighborhoods, I believe there is 1 or 2 around the Tri-West area that may come to fruition, and Lebanon is adding growth/housing (not to mention a LARGE industrial project coming). 

Here is the Conf. Champioins in Football..

image.png.e27e33bc0f5d3eb40958fee9ce9f481b.png

 

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1 hour ago, 1st_and_10 said:

I don't see this for WeBo... Going to Triton Central for a Thursday Night Freshman Basketball game makes zero sense... Football wise, maybe.  not for the other Sports.

As opposed to traveling to Greenfield Central like you did this year? Personally I think travel itself is under a drastic change in HS Sports in the age of COVID, Bus driver shortage, and stricter budgets . Carpools are becoming much more common . 

1 hour ago, crimsonace1 said:

Just a reminder for those playing along with DT's thought exercise - football is only one of 20 IHSAA-sanctioned sports and a school that may be struggling in football may still be a good fit in a conference in terms of geography, school population and competitiveness in other sports. 

Cascade currently sits atop the overall sports championship for the ICC , yet they are leaving? a school switching conferences despite being competitive in a majority of sports is not unheard of 🙄 *condescension noted 

10 minutes ago, Donnie Baker said:

Why would Webos leave the Sagamores?

This is where this site gets exhausting , I'm not saying they have even looked into it, but why does any school cooperation make any decision it does (and this is coming from an educator) ? I do think the Sagamore is very top heavy in football maybe they would enjoy a little more balance? Lets not pretend like its the craziest thing that would have happened in HS sport besides the Milan Miracle .............

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37 minutes ago, foxbat said:

This seems to speak to the idea that competitive balance for the state's football may not be the best answer for individual schools/programs and thus, contraction may actually hurt schools where the idea is not necessarily to win sectionals, but instead to provide enough funding to support their other sports.

Let's just ignore that.  HAHA

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