Sports news: Rockford College to join new conference

A declaration of intent to merge most of the Division III colleges and universities from the Lake Michigan and Northern Illinois-Iowa Conferences into one large all-sport conference beginning in some sports with the 2006-07 academic year has been agreed upon by 14 Midwest college presidents.

Institutions that have inked agreements to begin the process of drafting a constitution and related bylaws for the new unnamed conference include Alverno College, Aurora University, Benedictine University, Clarke College, Concordia University-River Forest, Concordia University-Wisconsin, Dominican University, Edgewood College, Lakeland College, Maranatha Baptist Bible College, Marian College, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Rockford College and Wisconsin Lutheran College.

The Lake Michigan Conference, which does not sponsor football, currently includes Alverno (a women’s only college), Concordia (Wis.), Lakeland, Edgewood, Maranatha Baptist, Marian, Milwaukee School of Engineering and Wisconsin Lutheran.

In recent years, two of the four LMC institutions that have football programs (Concordia and Lakeland) have competed in the Illini-Badger Conference (IBFC) during their fall season. Wisconsin Lutheran College currently plays football in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association while Maranatha has competed in the Upper Midwest Conference during the football season.

Aurora, Benedictine, Concordia (Ill.), Concordia (Wis.) and Lakeland have been fall members of the Illini-Badger Football Conference and will be included in this new all-sport conference.

Eureka College, Greenville and MacMurray also compete in the IBFC, but will not be part of the new all-sport league. Rockford plays in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference in football as well.

With the merger, “an eight-team football conference within the overall new conference will eventually be realized,” according to Concordia University-Wisconsin President Patrick Ferry.

Aurora, Benedictine, Concordia-Ill., Concordia-Wis., Lakeland, Maranatha, Rockford and Wisconsin Lutheran College will be the charter members who field football teams in 2007.

All institutions in the new conference offer men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, softball and women’s volleyball, except Alverno, the aforementioned all-female institution. Scheduling details remain to be worked out.

Men’s and women’s cross country, golf, tennis, plus track and field conference schedules will be offered by most of the new members and will be refined into logistically-favorable competition schedules.

“Obviously, refinements still need to be made,” said Ferry, who spearheaded work on the project, “but everyone is enthused and working toward a common goal. We recognize that we can do a lot more and a lot better together than any of us could do apart.”

Rockford College President Dr. Paul Pribbenow said: “Bringing together institutions, though diverse, to a common goal is very admirable. Rockford’s faculty was extremely excited about linking this core of institutions academically and athletically.”

Catherine Dunn, president of Clarke College, echoed Dr. Pribbenow’s statement. “This is the ‘best of both worlds’ opportunity for us. The faculty response on our campus has been very positive,” she said.

“We walked into the unknown when we joined the Lake Michigan Conference two years ago, but we were immediately accepted into a spirit of genuine collegiality and professionalism,” said Athletic Director Sue Hansen of Alverno. “I expect no less of this new affiliation.”

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