Northern Illinois Sports Beat                                                                       
The Northern Illinois Big 12
New high school conference is official ...
By Cody Cutter
Northern Illinois Sports Beat Publisher

LaSALLE (Jun. 15) –
For weeks, fans of 12 area schools had been hearing about
how they are leaving their conference and going to a new one.

That new one had been referred to as the “yet-unnamed” conference.

A name, an administration and a competition structure were unveiled during a
Monday morning press conference at LaSalle-Peru High School. The Northern
Illinois Big 12 Conference will begin competition in the 2009-10 school year.

The name beat out “Great Northern” and “Northwestern Big 12,” according to
conference secretary Nathan DeLany of Sterling.

The new conference consists of two divisions of six schools. Dixon, Geneseo,
LaSalle-Peru, Ottawa, Sterling and Streator – all current NCIC Reagan schools –
will consist of the western division. DeKalb, Maple Park Kaneland, Rochelle,
Sycamore and Yorkville – four current Western Sun schools – along with Morris,
who joins the NCIC Reagan next year, will consist of the eastern division. Although
Rochelle sits west of both Ottawa and Streator, the divisions were made up in
order to keep rivalries intact.

Crossover games between members of the two divisions will be formed as well.

“Basically what happened is we have 12 community-based high schools here with
very similar needs,” said Seth Schoonover, the new conference president and
current Yorkville athletics director.

Unlike central Illinois's version of the Big 12 (which includes the Bloomington-
Normal and Champiagn-Urbana area schools), this Big 12 will not be one division.
The divisional format had been discussed upon for weeks until coming to the
divisional conclusion.

“We considered travel, competition and rivalries, and decided the groupings that
we have was what we had to do to make it work for everybody,” said Schoonover.

The enrollment numbers range from Geneseo's 890 to DeKalb's 1,698, according
to the 2008 Illinois State Board of Education Fall Housing Report, released today.
All schools compete in Class 3A in the four-class setup, Class 2A in the three-class
setup and Class AA in the two-class setup.

Talks began of forming a new conference when the four incoming Western Sun
schools found themselves unable to compete with Batavia, Geneva and Glenbard
South, the other three WSC schools. The NCIC Reagan schools lent their hand,
having had competition difficulties themselves. The NCIC split into two divisions
after the 2005-06 school year: larger schools forming the Reagan division and
smaller schools forming the Lincoln division. The enrollments ranged from Spring
Valley Hall's 443 to Ottawa's 1,562.

“In (the NCIC) we had such a size disparity that didn't allow us crossover games in
football. We were separate divisions in everything,” said outgoing Sterling principal
Jerry Binder. “When we went to two separate divisions, our conference meets were
separate. So it just wasn't as competitive as you hoped it would be, when you can
have 12 schools the same size and have crossover games.”

A constitution has been signed, and all schools will form conference by-laws in the
next calendar year, according to Schoonover. In addition, contests will be held to
decide names of the divisions as well as a conference logo.

“We may rename (the divisions) depending on student approval in the fall,” said
Schoonover. “We'll have a contest to come up with a logo for the conference, and
we may have different divisional names other than 'East' and 'West'.

“All 12 schools' art departments will work to come up with a logo for the Northern
Illinois Big 12. We'll have a banner in every gym with that same logo with a
sportsmanship statement on it too.

Listed below are some sport-specific structures:

*Baseball and Softball:  Three levels of competition (freshman, sophomore,
varsity), with a weekly three-game series within each division in baseball and a two-
game series in softball. There will also be two Saturday crossover quad meets.

*Basketball:  Home-and-home conference dates, along with four crossover games
for varsity and sophomore levels. There will be a end-of-the-year conference
tournament on the freshman level; and there are no mandatory crossover games
for freshman teams. Only the divisional games will be counted toward a team's
conference win-loss record.

*Bowling: There will be one conference meet, along with one-time meets between
each school. All schools besides Geneseo and Yorkville offer girls bowling. LaSalle-
Peru, Ottawa, Rochelle, Streator and Sycamore offer boys bowling. The Western
Sun has always had a conference schedule for bowling. The NCIC has not had
one since the early 1990s.

*Competitive Cheerleading:  One conference meet will be held between all member

*Cross Country:  Two levels of competition (varsity and JV) with one conference
meet being held between all member schools.

*Football:  Three levels of competition. Weeks one and two will be non-conference.
Weeks three and four will be divisional crossover games. Weeks five through nine
will be conference games. Sophomore games precede varsity games, while
freshman games are played on Monday.

*Golf: Varsity and JV competition. There will be boys duals between teams in each
division. One conference meet will be held between all member schools.

*Soccer: Varsity and JV competition. Home-and-home conference dates in boys
soccer, with one-time meets between each school in girls soccer. All schools
except Ottawa and LaSalle-Peru offer girls soccer.

*Swimming: Varsity and JV competition. One conference meet will be held between
all participating member schools.

*Tennis: There will be one conference meet, along with one-time meets between
each school. All schools besides Kaneland and Sycamore offer tennis.

*Track and Field:  Varsity and JV competition. There will be one conference meet:
indoor in the spring and outdoor in May.

*Volleyball: Three levels of competition. Home-and-home conference dates, along
with two crossover meets for varsity and sophomore levels. Only the divisional
meets will be counted toward a team's conference win-loss record.

*Wrestling: Varsity and JV competition. There will be one varsity conference meet,
along with one-time meets between each school. There will also be JV and fresh-
soph conference meets.

*Activities offered include: Art Festival, Band Festival, Choral Festival, Athletic
Leadership, Drama, Literary Festival, Math Competition, Scholastic Bowl, Speech
and Student Council.

Cody Cutter is the Publisher of Northern Illinois Sports Beat, and writes columns
about Illinois high school sports. He can be reached at
Northern Illinois Big 12 officials gather for a press conference on Monday morning at LaSalle-Peru High School.
Pictured left-to-right are Kaneland AD Leigh Jaffke, Yorkville AD Seth Schoonover, Dixon principal Mike Grady,
Sterling principal Jerry Binder and Sycamore AD Curt Johansen. (Photo by Cody Cutter)
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