We all know times have changed. There’s evidence of it every day in every walk of life.
The Upstate Eight Conference recently came full circle, in a manner of speaking, when it accepted West Aurora and Glenbard East to rejoin the league those schools were charter members of 50 years ago when the conference was formed.
On Thursday, the official word came that St. Edward is among seven schools that have been accepted to join the Metro Suburban Conference in the fall of 2014, effectively bringing to an end one of the longest standing group of schools in the same conference anywhere in the state. Originally the West Suburban Catholic, then the Suburban Catholic, the league became the Suburban Christian Conference in 2009 when Aurora Christian, Walther Lutheran, Guerin, Chicago Christian and Wheaton Academy joined.
St. Edward, Aurora Central Catholic, Chicago Christian, Guerin, IC Catholic Prep, Walther Lutheran and Wheaton Academy announced at Thursday’s SCC athletic director’s meeting they had accepted invitations to join the Metro Suburban, which on Wednesday approved all seven to become new members.
The MSC will become a 14-team conference with the SCC schools joining Elmwood Park, Glenbard South, Fenton, Riverside-Brookfield, Ridgewood, Illiana Christian and Timothy Christian. Illiana and Timothy do not play football.
Ah, football. Before we go any further it’s necessary to make this statement: The breakup of the SCC is football-driven. You won’t read affirmation of that from anyone here because being politically correct and watching what you say is an administrator’s obligation anytime conferences have changes. But anyone who knows anything knows that the schools not invited to tag along — Montini, Aurora Christian, Marmion, St. Francis and Marian Central — are football powers that the other seven just plain can’t compete with on a regular basis. Rosary, an all-girls school, will also be left to find a new home or to stay with a downsized SCC that would have to add at least one school to have the IHSA required six to get an automatic football playoff berth.
The only one of those five without a state football championship is Marmion. Montini, Marian Central, Aurora Christian, St. Francis and now-closed Driscoll have 20 state football titles between them. The seven schools leaving the SCC have two, both by IC.
You don’t need a math degree to figure this one out folks.
“There became a lot of disparity,” said St. Edward football coach Mike Rolando. “When you see 85 kids from Marian or Montini marching to the field and you have 24, you worry sometimes abut the safety of your kids. We’d like to have nine games we can be competitive in and I think this new conference will allow us to do that. I don’t think this should be a surprise to anyone, including those schools. Seventy-to-nothing games aren’t good for them either.
“I don’t know if it’s football-driven and St. Edward wasn’t the school behind this change. We’ve been in the SCC forever and I’ve had great relationships with people in the conference and we’ve always done our best to compete.”
Yes, the Green Wave have. Rolando’s resurrection of the program has been remarkable, and St. Edward has done its very best to compete against the big boys but the fact is it’s an almost insurmountable challenge in football and some other sports as well.
“The SCC has been good for us but we’re an educational institution first and our students play sports,” Rolando said. “I don’t see anyone wanting to change that, nor should we.”
For that reason, among others, St. Edward is looking forward and is excited to be joining a new conference and to have the opportunity to play against new schools and forge new relationships.
“We are excited about the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead of us in the Metro Suburban Conference,” said St. Edward Superintendent Father David C. Finn in an emailed statement. “We are looking forward to a highly competitive conference where all the teams have a chance to compete for conference championships in all sports. We have nothing but great admiration for all of the schools from the Suburban Christian Conference and wish all of those schools the best in the future.
“As one of the founding members of the original Suburban Catholic Conference, we are saddened to be leaving the SCC, while at the same time we are excited about the new athletic, academic and spiritual opportunities in our future.”
Leaving the SCC doesn’t come without some emotion for St. Edward AD PJ White, also the Green Wave’s boys basketball coach.
“We’re excited about the new opportunities in the new league but at the same time we’re a little disheartened that we’re leaving a conference we were a founding member of,” he said. “Change doesn’t come without some conflict but in the grand scheme of things, we did what was best for St. Edward athletics and our kids who play sports. I think this new conference will give us a chance to compete for conference championships.”
But White will miss the relationships he’s formed with current and former ADs in the SCC.
“There aren’t any better schools than those six,” White said. “When our girls soccer team was going downstate and we needed a turf field to practice on, Aurora Christian said sure come on down, no charge. When I have a question about something I still call (former Montini AD) Don Riley. And Mary Lou Kunold at Rosary should be in the hall of fame. She’s incredible.
“It’s tough. I’ll miss working with those people but it’s something that’s best for our school. It’s a great opportunity for our sports teams to play some schools we’ve never played before.”
No decisions have been made yet about how the divisions in the new Metro Suburban will work, although it’s a pretty safe bet geography and enrollment will be the major factors in those decisions. The seven SCC schools range in enrollment, according to the IHSA website, from a low of 339 at IC Catholic Prep to a high of 638 at Wheaton Academy (St. Edward’s enrollment is 406). But remember, each of those enrollments is multiplied by 1.65 by the IHSA, as are all private schools. The seven current Metro Suburban schools range in enrollment from a low of 385 at Timothy Christian to a high of 1,499 at Fenton. Illiana and Timothy each get multiplied. The five public schools in the MSC have an average enrollment of 1,224, so it’s pretty clear that most of the seven SCC schools jumping to the MSC will stay in the same division, but there will certainly be crossover play, and football could take on a whole different shape. White said it will likely take the new league until early 2014 to work everything out.
White also said the final formality to all of this will take place May 8 when the SCC principals meet, and when each school signs its official letter to join the Metro Suburban.
So, times are changing again. The traditionalist in me hasn’t quite yet gotten wrapped around the fact St. Edward will no longer be in the Suburban Catholic Conference. One of my favorite memories of starting out in this business was the old Sunday afternoon West Suburban Catholic football wars at Greg True Field.
Of course if you didn’t attend those games, you didn’t know much about them until the Monday afternoon paper came out. Yes, there were afternoon newspapers in those days.
The times, they sure do change ...
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