Who will be the schools that decide to join the Northern State Conference?
Could Tippecanoe Valley be one of them?
That’s the million dollar question being thrown around right now.
The NSC is in the market for new members due to an announcement last month that Triton, Culver, Knox and LaVille will be leaving the league at the end of the 2014-15 school year. Those four schools will join with North Judson, Caston, Pioneer and Winamac in a new conference in two years.
That leaves the NSC, which was formed in 1966, with just Jimtown, John Glenn, Bremen and New Prairie.
The names in the mix include Tippecanoe Valley, currently a member of the Three Rivers Conference.
“Yes there is an offer to us to join the NSC,” said Tippecanoe Valley Athletic Director Duane Burkhart in a phone interview today. “Right now, our school administrators are weighing the pros and the cons of it and no final decision has been made yet.”
Wawasee, a member of the Northern Lakes Conference, made it official on Monday that they would not be making a move to the NSC.
The other schools who have been invited to join the NSC after an informational meeting within the last two weeks include Mishawaka Marian, Rochester and Culver Academies. Marian is currently a member of the Northern Indiana Conference, Rochester resides in the TRC along with Valley and the Academy is an independent.
Burkhart, who has spent 31 years at Valley as a teacher, coach and administrator, knows very well that there are a lot of factors that need to be considered.
“There is a lot to consider and a lot of factors that need to be looked at and discussed,” Burkhart said. “It’s not that we’re unhappy with the TRC.”
The competitive balance, especially in the money making sport of football, was one of the main reasons cited by Triton and the other three NSC schools that decided to form a new conference with schools more their size in terms of enrollment. Triton has been in the NSC since 1980.
“We do have to look at the competitive standpoint for all our sports in considering a change,” Burkhart stated.
Among the key factors to address would be a 1 1/2 hour or more bus ride for Valley athletes to and from contests at New Prairie. Another is that Marian is a parochial school, which draws student athletes from a broad area. There is also the question of what would happen to middle school athletics if Valley leaves the TRC for its high school sports.
One school that had been rumored to being courted by the NSC was NorthWood, the smallest school in the NLC. Not so, according to NorthWood Athletic Director Norm Sellers.
“We’ve never been approached by the NSC and it’s 100 percent false that we were asked to join,” said Sellers in a phone interview today. “We have no interest in moving and are not looking at it. We are very happy being in the NLC. It’s a good fit for us.”
Burkhart did note that the TRC was looking at expansion last year to a 10-team conference from its current eight schools. Peru was invited to join the TRC, but plans fell through when a 10th school could not be found to join the league.
The future of the Valley athletic program and its’ league affiliation should be determined by mid-October, according to Burkhart.