Hall Joins Tri-County
NCIC left with four schools after Hall votes to leave ...
Northern Illinois Sports Beat                                                                                 http://www.northernillinoissportsbeat.com
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By Cody Cutter
Northern Illinois Sports Beat Publisher

Last month, Hall Township High School voted for travel in a
new direction with their football program.

On Wednesday, they voted to go in another direction for the rest of their athletics.

The Hall High School Board of Education voted 6-0 to accept an invitation to join the Tri-
County Conference in most sports beginning in the 2011-2012 school year. The Red
Devil Football program will join the West Central Conference the same year in that sport

This leaves the North Central Illinois Conference with just four schools for 2011-12: Illinois
Valley Central, Mendota, Princeton and St. Bede (who will join the NCIC from the Tri-
County next year).

Hall principal Tony Valente and athletics director Gary Barrera had spent plenty of time
scrambling for a solution to leave the dissolving conference. They pitched an idea to the
Tri-County a couple of weeks ago, according to Valente, and the conference immediately
approved of the plan.

“We met with the coaches and got their input prior to the pitch. They thought this was our
best option for our students and our conference,” Valente addressed to the Board. “We
pitched the Tri-County, they accepted us and asked us to join their conference.”

For nearly 70 years up until St. Bede's inclusion for next year, Hall had been the smallest
school in a conference full of larger schools, some of which were three times as large. Hall
joined the NCIC in 1942 and competed in the conference's large-school division (NCIC
Northeast) until 1958, when they switched over to the small-school division (NCIC
Southwest). When the NCIC split into two divisions in 2006, Hall was a part of the NCIC
Lincoln Division.

With an enrollment of 443 students as of the 2008-09 school year, Hall will go from the
smallest school in the NCIC to the largest school in the Tri-County. They were the smallest
school this year by 103 students behind Kewanee. When Hall joins the TCC, they will be
less than 100 students larger than the largest school currently – Peoria Christian's 312.
The Tri-County also consists of Putnam County (275), Varna Midland (274), Henry-
Senachwine (211), Ottawa Marquette (199), Roanoke-Benson (172), Low Point-
Washburn (146), Streator Woodland (140) and DePue (70).

Barrera stated that in the next six years, the school is looking at an enrollment range
between 390 and 400.

“Ten years ago we were closer to around 550, and since that time we dwindled,” Barrera
said. “Although we had some success in the NCIC, it's been difficult to compete especially
with the other schools who are growing. As we're declining, they're growing, so it makes a
big gap. But we've competed in the NCIC, we've done a nice job. It's just that right now
we're in a situation where we have to make a move to a different conference, and the Tri-
County is that best fit for us because of the enrollment sizes.”

The rest of the Tri-County schools will now look upward toward Hall.

“It will boost morale, too,” Barrera said. “We should be competitive in the Tri-County, they
have some good teams down there. We should be competitive, the morale should go up,
and we should be able to  maybe get more athletes out.”

Three other solutions in the recent past included the Three Rivers, Interstate Eight and
Big Northern conferences. The Three Rivers will add Kewanee next year, and the I-8 and
Big Northern have so far balked at the idea of having the remaining NCIC schools join
their conferences. Barerra thinks that Mendota and Princeton are possibly looking to join
the WCC just for football, and that hope for these two schools to join the Big Northern
hasn't dwindled.

“All of those schools' travel times were quite a bit for us,” Barrera said. “We would be the
smallest schools the for Big Northern and the I-8. The Three Rivers would have been a
good fit for us, but at that particular time we were looking for football and all other sports.”

Since playoff implications for football involve a school's affiliation with a conference, the
decision was made to at least find a football conference.

“When the conferences weren't looking to expand, we had to look for at least a football
conference,” Barrera said. “We joined the WCC. Now that gives us a great opportunity to
join the Tri-County as well because they don't offer football.”

Several housekeeping issues will need to be made in the next school year in order to
prepare for switch of conferences. The Tri-County has a Conference Tournament for
basketball and volleyball, which will mean one of the current tournaments in volleyball and
boys basketball will need to be dropped in order to participate in it. The volleyball team
currently participates in the maximum-allowed number of tournaments at Geneseo,
Mendota, Reed-Custer and Rock Falls. The boys basketball team participates in the
maximum-allowed number of tournaments at Plano and Seneca, as well as hosting its
Colmone Classic.

Another task will be scheduling games for the lower levels. Most Tri-County schools do
not have freshman-only squads.

Barrera also addressed the fact that every effort will be made to schedule traditional rivals
in the non-conference slate.

Writer's Note: Enrollments for Peoria Christian and Ottawa Marquette are that of actual
students. Peoria Christian's enrollment per the IHSA Multiplier is 514.8, and Marquette's
is 328.35.

Cody Cutter is the Publisher of Northern Illinois Sports Beat. He can be reached at
Northernillinoissportsbeat@yahoo.com. --- Talk about what's written on our
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