For the last couple of years, I have heard rumblings at various athletic events that Morris might want to leave the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference. Given the fact that a lot of these rumblings have come after losses, I didn’t know whether to take them that seriously.
No one had gone on the record to say that was the case, anyway, so it just remained in my head as something I heard.
Last week at a Morris Community High School board meeting, however, there actually was discussion about sending a letter of interest to the Interstate Eight Conference, which is looking to replace Seneca. Seneca recently opted to move into the Tri-County Conference.
While a majority of fans just want to look at football, there is an entire school and atheltic program to focus on here. Yes, the Morris football team should be able to come into the Interstate Eight Conference and be at or near the top of the league year in and year out, just like they are in the Northern Illinois Big 12, and just like they were in the Little Seven, Suburban Prairie, Southwest Prairie and NCIC in the last 30 years.
My point is that we are not talking about anything new here. Morris has been in five different conferences since I graduated from there in 1987. We’re not talking about Illinois and the Big 10 here. The Redskins have been fairly nomadic in their history.
One of the reasons for that is that it seems like every area surrounding Morris is growing, while the enrollment at MCHS has remained virtually the same with no sign of it drastically increasing or decreasing. You can write in anywhere between 800-1,000 students for Morris every year for the next 20 years and feel pretty good about your chances of it being there. If you had done that in, say, Minooka, 20 years ago, you’d be about 2,000 off by now.
As communites and schools change, their needs change and conference affiliations change. It wasn’t that long ago that Peotone and Manteno were in the same conference as Gardner-South Wilmington. Now, they are competing in the postseason against schools such as Morris.
On the fields of play, Morris is not going to jump right into the I-8 and dominate every sport. However, they will be more competitive when it comes to conference titles on a yearly basis.
Wrestling long has been a strength in the I-8 and Morris isn’t going to come in and overthrow state powers such as Coal City and Wilmington. The Redskins will go from being the second-smallest school in the NIB 12 to being the second-largest in the I-8. That alone should keep them near the top. More kids to choose from generally equates to better teams.
Plus, there’s the travel side of things. The average one-way trip for Morris in a NIB 12 road game is 57 miles. The longest trip they will face as a member of the I-8 is 51. That means less time on the road, less money to fuel buses and more time for the kids to be in class and to get home to finish homework. That’s a win-win, no matter what.
It’s still being discussed. There also are other schools expressing interest in joining the I-8.
And, in the end, the I-8 might decide to stand pat and not add anyone. I am just saying that, if it comes, it seems like a good fit to me.
• Rob Oesterle is the senior sportswriter for the Morris Herald-News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.