Much like Seneca has never offered soccer to its students until entering a co-op with Newark this year, Newark students do not have the opportunity to play football.
There was preliminary discussion between the schools to change that. According to Seneca Athletic Director Steve Haines, Newark contacted Seneca with the idea — which Seneca considered — that Seneca host a football co-op with Newark.
While a soccer co-op hosted by Newark is a go for the 2013 season, no such agreement was made in football. Seneca rejected the offer primarily because its own enrollment (471, per the IHSA), when combined with Newark’s (180), would have forced the Fighting Irish to leave the Interstate Eight Conference’s Small Division for the Large. Seneca is 5-23 in crossover games against Large opponents since the conference split into two divisions in 2006.
“I didn’t feel that (a move into the Large Division) would serve in our best interest,” Haines said. “It wasn’t that we weren’t interested in the idea. In fact, it was welcomed widely by some members of our coaching staff and some other people here.”
Haines also stressed that such a co-op would need to be approved by the other schools in the conference for it to happen. There is precedent; Dwight has hosted a football co-op with Gardner-South Wilmington — and the schools have teamed up in other sports — for several years.
“I wouldn’t foresee (conference approval) being a problem, but I can’t speak for the other 11 schools,” Haines said.
Dwight is leaving the I-8 after the 2013-14 school year, with Streator moving into the conference. The change could help prevent Seneca from having to change divisions in the event of a co-op with Newark. Dwight is a Small Division member, while Streator’s enrollment of 890 figures to keep it firmly in the Large for the foreseeable future.
Haines expects Seneca’s enrollment to drop to about 440 by the 2014-15 school year, and Newark’s to remain fairly consistent. With enrollments exploding at some I-8 schools, Seneca could conceivably co-op with Newark and still play in the Small Division in the very near future.
At that point, Haines says, the idea could be revisited.
“The football co-op is not a dead issue,” Haines said. “This year, we will have one of the smallest freshman teams we’ve had. We will field a freshman team, but it’s one of the smallest groups we’ve had. ... We’re the smallest school in our conference, and there’s a real chance we could revisit this in the future — not just in football, but in other sports as well.”