North Central Illinois Conference

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The North Central Illinois Conference, far better known as the NCIC, was an IHSA recognized high school extra-curricular conference. It location, as the name would indicate, was in the north-central part of the state. The schools all hailed from communities with municipal populations in the 5000-20,000 range.

Until the departure of the Rochelle Hubs in 2006, the NCIC's 42-year span of unchanged membership was the longest of any high school conference.[1] However, that one change sent shockwaves through the rest of the conference, ultimately resulting in the dissolution of the NCIC at the end of the 2010-11 school year.

History[edit]

Formation and growth[edit]

The North Central Illinois Conference was formed in 1929. Its charter members were Belvidere, DeKalb, Dixon, Mendota, Rochelle, and Sterling.[2] Over the next thirty years more schools joined, and by 1960, there were twelve member schools.

In the late 1960s it was decided to divide the conference into two divisions. This was due to a wide variance in the sizes of the member schools' populations, and the IHSA regulations which prohibited the larger schools from playing in the same size division against the smaller schools during football playoffs. Thus the conference was split into Northeast and Southwest divisions (later renamed the Reagan and Lincoln divisions). Despite this accommodation, however, over the next thirty years, the larger schools grew far more rapidly than the smaller schools, creating even greater discrepancies; it became doubtful that the twelve schools could continue to share the same banner.

The first crack: Rochelle leaves after 77 years[edit]

The 2006 season saw the first change in the conference line-up in 42 years, as the Rochelle Hubs left the NCIC. The Hubs, having won nine consecutive NCIC (Southwest Division) football championships, were in search of stronger competition, and became a charter member of the Western Sun Conference.[3] Rochelle was quickly replaced in the conference line-up by Illinois Valley Central High School, located in Chillicothe.[4] However, the departure of Rochelle created shockwaves through the conference which continued to reverberate and ultimately resulted in the conference's dissolution.

The dam bursts[edit]

In 2009, the NCIC added the Morris Redskins to its Reagan Division. However, other long-time NCIC schools, such as LaSalle-Peru, began making plans to find another conference. At the beginning of the 2010-11 school year, all the teams from the NCIC Reagan division left to join the new Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference, a two-division larger school conference. Also joining as a charter member of the NIB-12 was former NCIC powerhouse Rochelle, meaning that over half of the NIB-12's membership consisted of former NCIC schols. Also leaving were the Kewanee Boilermakers, who left for the Three Rivers Conference.[5]

The NCIC did not immediately dissolve, however. For the 2010-11 school year, the NCIC added one school, the St. Bede Bruins of Peru, who replaced departing Kewanee in all sports except football. The St. Bede football program remained in the Big Rivers. Under IHSA regulations, with only five football participants, the automatic playoff qualifier privileges for the NCIC's champion could be suspended. However, a team could still make the state playoffs as an at-large team, and in fact, both Mendota and IVC gained playoff spots.[6]

Death of the NCIC[edit]

The dissolution of the NCIC continued, however, despite gaining St. Bede. Both Rock Falls and Mendota left for the Big Northern Conference after the 2010-2011 academic year,.[2] At least two schools (Princeton and IVC) accepted invitations to play football—Princeton in the West Central Conference[7] and IVC in the Mid-State 6[8] IVC was turned down by four other conferences before successfully petitioning for an invitation from the Mid-State 6.[9]

Even the NCIC's two smallest schools, long-time member Hall Township and new inductee St. Bede, announced that they too were leaving in 2011, for the Tri-County Conference.[10] With only one to three schools remaining without other conference affiliations (depending on whether one is talking about football or other sports) the dissolution of the NCIC became a near-certainty.[11] News reports in the summer of 2011 indicated that the NCIC had, in fact, folded.[12]

However, at the end of 2011, Princeton had not yet found a conference for other sports besides football.[7] Reports surfaced that Princeton asked to join the Big Northern Conference, but did not receive an invitation.[2] Finally, in 2013, Princeton was accepted into the Three Rivers Conference. [13]

Membership timeline[edit]

St. Bede Academy Morris High School (Illinois) Illinois Valley Central High School LaSalle-Peru High School Streator Township High School Kewanee High School Rock Falls High School Ottawa Township High School Hall High School (Illinois) Geneseo High School Princeton High School (Illinois) Sterling High School (Illinois) Rochelle Township High School Mendota Township High School Dixon High School (Illinois) DeKalb High School (Illinois) Belvidere High School (Belvidere, Illinois)

Final year membership[edit]

^ = left for the Big Northern Conference beginning in the 2011-2012 academic year
% = left for the Tri-County Conference beginning in the 2011-2012 academic year

References[edit]

External links[edit]