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Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
In two years Huntington North will be participating in a new conference with six ex-NHC members.

Smooth voyage for Vikes

Huntington North avoids turmoil in leaving conference

– Huntington North’s separation from the North Central Conference has been a lot less painful than that of New Castle – and not nearly as expensive.

Both schools were scheduled to leave the venerable conference, with the Trojans out in a year and the Vikings in two years. But things got ugly in the last couple of months between New Castle and some of the other NCC members, resulting in some intervention from the IHSAA, an early exodus from the league and a $14,000 bill for the Trojans to join the Hoosier Heritage Conference.

Huntington North, which will join six other soon-to-be former members of the Northeast Hoosier Conference in a new, unnamed conference in two years, hasn’t had the same troubles New Castle has endured in leaving the NCC.

“The difference between us and New Castle is about $8,000,” Huntington North athletic director Mike Gasaway said.

“They are spending $14,000 to leave, and we are spending $6,000 over two years. It makes it a little financially easier and less of a burden on us.”

Gasaway said the exit fee was $2,000 per school for New Castle’s one-year exit plan and $1,000 per school (to the remaining NCC schools) for leaving after two years, like Huntington North. The exit fee also leaves the Vikings eligible for NCC championships in each sport, and Huntington North athletes are eligible for all-conference selections.

“It gives all the schools a little more time to plan and adjust,” Gasaway said of the two-year notice. A member of the NCC since 1926, New Castle drew the wrath of some other NCC schools, which were threatening to not honor nonfootball games already in place for the 2013-14 school year. New Castle will leave the NCC immediately and become a hybrid of independent and a member of the HHC.

NCC schools were free to leave New Castle on their schedules if they desired, and Gasaway said the Vikings will honor the contracts with the Trojans, with some adjustments.

“For this year, the only thing we had to do in tennis is adjust our schedule to play them,” Gasaway said. “Usually when we were playing New Castle, we were also playing (other NCC schools), and we didn’t want to play New Castle first and not count as a conference game, and then play Muncie Central as a conference game. Just having a nonconference game with a conference game, there could be some coaching strategy that we didn’t want to take away so we didn’t put our coaches and athletes in a bad spot. We just moved New Castle to a different day.”

The future for Huntington North, though, is with Bellmont, Columbia City, DeKalb, East Noble, New Haven and Norwell, which will depart the NHC in June 2015, and Leo, which will depart the Allen County Athletic Conference.

“This is what it is best for us,” Gasaway said of the new conference. “We are part of a good conference, and we will be transitioning into something that our community is very happy about.”

Gasaway said there have been some preliminary discussions on the name of the new conference.

“Hopefully we can come up with a name that all of the schools feel like have taken a part in,” he said. “There is no set name. It is going to take some time.”