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Football

Ottawa, LaSalle-Peru, Rochelle consider leaving Interstate 8

Sycamore's Matthew Coovert meets up with Ottawa defenders Sept. 25, 2015.
Sycamore's Matthew Coovert meets up with Ottawa defenders Sept. 25, 2015.

EDDIE CARIFIO – ecarifio@shawmedia.com

Ottawa, LaSalle-Peru and Rochelle provided the Interstate 8 with notice they are exploring the possibility of leaving the newly formed conference after the 2020-21 school year.

Ottawa athletic director Michael Cooper said members of the old North Central Illinois Conference approached Ottawa Superintendent Michael Cushing, and given the “50 or 60 years of history” with the old conference, he heard them out.

He said there are no plans in place for a move. As for how he sees it playing out, he is unsure.

“I honestly don’t know,” Cooper said.

Cooper said he would not comment on which NCIC schools Ottawa, LaSalle-Peru and Rochelle were in discussions with.

The NCIC had the same 12 schools as members from 1964 until 2006, when Rochelle left for the Western Sun.

Ottawa was a member of the NCIC from 1942 until 2010, with L-P joining in 1964. Rochelle was a charter member of the league but left in 1937 before returning in 1946.

Sycamore athletic director Chauncey Carrick said he was informed that Ottawa, L-P and Rochelle were in discussions with Streator (NCIC member from 1958-2010), Mendota (1929-2011), Hall (1942-2011) and Princeton (1939-2011).

The other members of the NCIC between 1964 and 2006 were Dixon, Sterling, Geneseo, Rock Falls and Kewanee.

Sycamore principal Tim Carlson said the I-8 received letters from the three schools Wednesday. He said he felt the letters from Ottawa and L-P indicated they were more involved – he said Ottawa’s letter mentioned they’ve had four meetings – while Rochelle is just listening, having one meeting.

He said he was frustrated by the lack of transparency.

“People were disappointed,” Carlson said. “We’ve worked hard to get this new conference going, then we find out after a few meetings [that] this is going on. ... We sat in a meeting last week and no one said this was going on.”

He said the lack of certainty in the situation also is frustrating.

“Everybody always said they have to do what’s best for their schools,” Carlson said. “We need to do what’s best for Sycamore. And we can’t do that if we don’t know what’s going on.”

Plano and Sandwich began rebuilding the I-8 in late 2017 and early 2018 after a mass exodus of current schools. Morris, LaSalle-Peru, Ottawa and Rochelle were initially invited, and in January the conference added Geneseo – which quickly then changed its minds after an invite to the Western Big 6.

Sycamore was added in March 2018, then Kaneland was brought in on a provisional basis to put the league at eight teams.

The potential exit of Ottawa, LaSalle-Peru and Rochelle would leave just five teams: Sycamore, Kaneland, Morris, Plano and Sandwich.

Beginning in 2021, football no longer will use conferences, and instead have districts as assigned by the IHSA. Conferences still will be used in other sports.

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