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NHC folding in 2015

Had ‘run its course’ as enrollment gap continued to rise

– The Northeast Hoosier Conference decided Thursday the 24-year-old conference will be disbanded in 2015.

After a morning meeting with the league’s athletic directors and principals, a statement was emailed to the media from NHC President and Norwell Principal Mark A. Misch that read:

“Conversations have occurred throughout the school year regarding many different factors concerning the NHC member schools. In analyzing many different factors, disparity among schools in terms of enrollment continues to grow.

“As a result of these discussions, all member schools mutually agreed to withdraw from the NHC effective July 1, 2015. Therefore, principals and athletic directors will be focusing on new future conference membership affiliations. All member schools will abide by the constitution established by the NHC throughout the transition process which should conclude by the end of the 2014-15 school year.”

Since 1989, the NHC has been made up of eight schools – Bellmont, Carroll, Columbia City, DeKalb, East Noble, Homestead, New Haven and Norwell. But recently there have been discussions, meetings and even a statement from the schools’ superintendents regarding an upcoming move.

“The main reason is the gap in enrollment between the schools at the top and the schools at the bottom,” Norwell athletic director Eric Morgan said. “It’s the issue that forced the decision. You have two schools at the top (Carroll and Homestead) who are trending up and continue to get bigger. At the bottom, we are trending down. Then you have schools in the middle who are going to stay where they are at, but they aren’t going to get larger either. That continues to widen the gap for everybody.”

“I have the all the respect in the world for the larger schools in our conference, but because of that gap that continues to increase enrollment-wise the conference has somewhat run its course and it is not the best fit anymore for everybody involved.”

Each of the schools could end up in other conferences, be independent or some of them might form a new conference along with schools from existing conferences coming aboard.

“In the scheme of things, it is not like we are starting from square one,” Homestead athletic director Joe Updegrove said. “We have two good years to figure out what we want to do. We are not going to rush into anything.

“If we need to be (independent), … we will do it. It will be interesting to see what teams we can play in football. That’s probably the biggest concern. We will figure something out, everybody does. We have a lot of options out there. I don’t know if any of them have to do with conferences or not. I see it as a good opportunity for us to beef up our schedule. You have to play the best to be able to compete with the best. Hopefully, this gives us that opportunity.”

Carroll and Homestead will be in the new Class 6A in football next year, while the six other schools remain 4A or smaller.

“The NHC has been a wonderful conference and each school has had great relationships and great rivalries, and this gives us an opportunity to move forward,” said Morgan, who was a senior at Bluffton when the NHC was beginning. “It stops the conversations of are we going to do something or are we not, but at the same time it gives us two years to finish strong.

“It is something where we will be talking and trying to figure out the best fit for us and where that is at. Now that things are final, those conversations will be happening relatively quickly. It is tough, especially coming from something that has been so positive in the NHC.”

In other area conference news, Jay Schools Corp. Superintendent Tim Long will recommend that Jay County High School join the Allen County Athletic Conference over the North Central Conference. Jay Schools has a board meeting Monday where they are expected to vote on a new conference for the currently independent Patriots’ athletic programs. Jay County would join the ACAC for the 2014-15 school year.

“I am going to make a recommendation to the board on Monday that we join the ACAC,” Long said Thursday. “That’s after we spent quite a bit of time looking at the bids, and that was what I felt would be the best thing for our school corporation.”

The ACAC is made up of Adams Central, Bluffton, Garrett, Heritage, Leo, South Adams, Southern Wells (except football) and Woodlan. Jay County has been independent for the last three years after the Olympic Athletic Conference folded.

“Certainly, transportation was something to look at,” Long said. “We already have a lot of those teams who we are playing or are pretty close to us (in the ACAC). It just looked regionally that it was a better fit for us. Jay County has a lot of pride, and we travel well. I always like the atmosphere at a great sporting event, and I think this will only add to it.”

gjones@jg.net

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