By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
A new fad has taken off all across sports. It doesn’t matter if it is professional, college or now high school. That fad is conference changes.
These changes are taking place all over the country, and for myriad reasons, depending on the level. In some cases, it is money, and in others, it is competitiveness.
Nowhere have these changes been more dramatic than at the college level. You have a Big 10 with 12 teams, the Pac 10 became the Pac 12, the SEC has expanded to 14 teams, there were teams from the West Coast joining the former Big East, which had to change its name because some of those schools took the name when they formed a new conference.
In most of the cases at the college level, all of these changes had to do with money. There were opportunities for smaller schools to also increase their competition level, and they would tell you that was the reason. But you can’t ignore the money that was involved.
At the high school level, the changes are coming for much different reasons. Some of it is money, as in schools can’t afford to travel long distances anymore for their every day or every week conference games.
But the main driving force behind these changes comes because of competition.
It is an interesting dynamic as well. You have schools on both sides of the spectrum looking to make changes because of the level of competition.
In some cases, schools are leaving highly competitive conferences where they feel they have no chance to compete, especially when it comes to the football playoffs. They are looking for a spot where they feel like they can at least have a chance most years.
In other cases, you have some schools who dominate their conferences so thoroughly that they are searching for better competition to prepare themselves for the playoffs, though that is the rare exception.
There is also a big disconnect between private and public schools. Private schools typically get better athletes, who can choose to attend that school, whereas public schools have to work with whoever is in the building.
You even have private schools abandoning other private schools because they cannot compete at their level.
All this is to say that at some point, these changes will affect this area and the NIC-10. They continue to say it will not, but it is only a matter of time before it will.
There is a big disconnect within the conference as it is while Rockford Boylan Catholic has not lost a football game in seven years and Rockton Hononegah and Machesney Park Harlem have lost fewer than a handful outside of games to each other in that same time frame.
This comes in a conference that features Belvidere, Belvidere North and Freeport, who are about half the size of Hononegah and Harlem, and the four Rockford schools who are caught somewhere in between.
There are rumors that the conference has reached out to schools big and small, trying to find a way to maybe split in to two divisions and balance out the scheduling more.
There are also rumors that other conferences have reached out to NIC-10 schools about leaving the conference, which would cause a whole new set of nightmare scenarios for area schools when it comes to scheduling.
Ultimately, something will happen here and the conference will change, whether someone leaves, schools are added or anything to that effect. It could be in the next year, it may take five years.
But know that the change will be coming. In today’s sports environment, however, the change is inevitable.