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Explaining conference unrest

– The conference realignment dominoes have begun to fall with the Thursday announcement of the eight-team NHC disbanding in 2015 and the likely addition of Jay County to the ACAC. But why the changes?

According to someone who follows these trends closely, there are three reasons to move – or in some cases, to get other schools to move – out of their present conference. Dave Schmidt has worked in sports radio for years in Celina, Ohio, and is currently in Rockford, Ill.

After also having some experience with college conferences, Schmidt turned his website, www.seniorreports.com, from one that specializes in minor league professional sports to one that follows the changing conference climate in high schools and colleges.

For Schmidt, the causes are (in no particular order): the struggling economy, changing school sizes and competitive balance in football.

“A lot of it has to do with the economy right now, and secondary may be the sizes and other changes,” Schmidt said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Jay County could be the ACAC’s ninth member, depending on the status of Southern Wells (a football independent) and other schools.

“Before the economy went south, they would have gone to the NCC,” Schmidt said in theory. “That would have fit them. Now people start looking at their budgets.

“(Jay County) is too big for everybody around them, but they act more like a rural school than they do an urban school. When they consolidated a few years ago, this came out of it that everybody thinks they should be competing against the big city schools.

“It is almost like everybody is playing fantasy athletic conferences right now. It doesn’t matter how solid your conferences are, once (schools) start peeling off you have to replace people, and that’s where football comes in because you don’t want to be … always looking for an open date.”

Jay Schools Corp. Superintendent Tim Long will recommend to the school board Monday that Jay County should choose the ACAC over the North Central Conference, the two choices for the currently independent Patriots’ athletic programs.

“It is probably cyclical,” Long said, theorizes about the current shakeup in high school conferences. “The last three years there hasn’t been many changes. I can tell you that because we have applied to a couple of different conferences, and we really didn’t have a lot bites or anything or were on the radar. Then we got two offers in the last three months. Some conferences went smaller, but the NCC is expanding. It is really hard for me to say whether there is a trend either way. Some of that is financially driven, and teams are trying to stay closer to home and not travel as much.”

Other area conferences, such as the SAC and the NECC, haven’t been immune to the talk. Concordia has been rumored to want out (mainly for football reasons) of the SAC, and there has been talk about Leo no longer being a part of the ACAC or Angola possibly leaving the NECC.

Greg Jones is the high school sports editor for The Journal Gazette and has been covering sports in the Fort Wayne area since 1998. He can be reached by email gjones@jg.net; phone, 461-8224; or fax 461-8648.

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