On Thursday in Gap Shots & Whiffs, we took a look at the changes that are coming for both the Interstate Eight Conference and the Northern Illinois Big 12. This due to the fact that Dwight is leaving the I-8 and Dixon the NIB12 in 2014.
Both conferences currently operate as 12-team conferences that are split into two divisions for most sports. With the aforementioned schools leaving, keeping an 11-team league doesn't seem to be a viable option.
Right now, the wild card would seem to be Streator. From what I'm hearing, the Bulldogs may be the answer to the solution on both sides. It's not out of the realm of possibility that Streator joins the I-8 to replace Dwight, leaving the NIB12 as a 10-team conference.
"If you look at it, the I-8 has teams that have grown into 3A teams in a four-class system," Morris athletic director George Dergo said. "That's where we are. Those teams have grown to a similar size as we are. At the same time, the NIB12 has teams that are growing and are now outsized."
Another option would be the formation of a brand new conference that includes teams similar in size and makes travel reasonable. There's only one problem with that - unless you go with a six-team league.
"La Salle and Ottawa want to stay together. Sandwich and Plano want to stay together. Coal City and Wilmington want to stay together and Morris and Yorkville want to stay together," Dergo said.
So, it's possible that we could see a new conference with a mix of those teams in varying size for beginning in 2014?
"It wouldn't be out of the question," Dergo said.
I like the combination of Morris, Yorkville, Streator, Ottawa, La Salle-Peru, Sandwich and Plano but the allure of having Coal City and Wilmington as conference schools has appeal to it, as well.
The way the NIB12 seems to want to grow is north, which seems to be a counter-productive move for teams like Morris, Streator and Ottawa since travel to schools like Hampshire, Burlington Central and even Freeport (yes, it's been discussed) starts to get overbearing.
"We don't want to be traveling all over the state," Dergo said.
Sometimes it's just just a reality of a conference setup - travel.
"I just want to say that I'm not trying to break up the (NIB12) conference, though Morris has been through this conference change stuff a lot lately," Dergo said. "We like playing the Kanelands, the Sycamores, the Rochelles. They are good teams for us. So is DeKalb. Though Sterling and Dixon are a bit far away for us. The other team that is out there is Geneseo, but that's a straight shot on (US Route) 80. Sometimes there is going to be one school that you have to travel to in the mix."
But not ideally.
Ideally you'd have schools of similar size with moderate travel in a conference. Kind of like the Southwest Prairie Conference.
The main question is do you want to go with a conference as small as six or as big as 10. Both are doable according to Dergo.
"In my opinion, you can go with a 10 team conference," Dergo said. "But you have to take a look at what dictates that and it's scheduling for football. If Streator wants to drop out, that leaves us with 10 teams and nine football games. But that hasn't been talked about a lot."
Not surprising considering all the travel.
What it all means is that there is likely the potential for rather large conference seismic activity.
"There's going to have to be some serious conversation about what people want to do about the conference," Dergo concluded.