What: Media Day
When: 11 a.m. today
Where: North Side
Who: Northeast Indiana high school teams
Talk today at the 2012 Northeast Indiana Football Media Day at North Side will undoubtedly turn to conference championships. One team that won’t be mentioned in the race for the ACAC title will be Southern Wells. The Raiders haven’t been eligible for the title for the past two seasons.
That will continue for another year, bringing the school’s future in the conference – in all sports – into jeopardy.
After years of discussion, Southern Wells decided that its enrollment wasn’t enough to compete for the ACAC football championship any longer and dropped bigger league schools Leo, Heritage and Woodlan from its schedule.
The Raiders have played as a football independent the previous two seasons, have been on probation by the ACAC and will do so again this year.
“As a conference, I don’t know if we fully thought out the ramifications of it,” South Adams athletic director Mike Pries said of Southern Wells not playing football in the ACAC. “We thought it was an integrity thing that if you are going to be in the conference, then you should play (football) in the conference.”
According to ACAC bylaws, a school that doesn’t field a football or basketball team in league competition could be subject to expulsion from the conference altogether. After a meeting of the principals and athletic directors of the conference’s eight schools last spring, Southern Wells was given another year of probation by a 5-3 vote.
“We have given them a year to work out a solution to this,” Woodlan athletic director Todd Thieme said. “Nobody wants to see Southern Wells leave the conference. But we have to figure football out. Football drives athletic programs, and it provides the most revenue.”
Southern Wells, though, is caught between its desire to remain in the ACAC and concerns over fielding a competitive football team with a widening enrollment gap with some of the league schools.
“Southern Wells has a long history in the ACAC, and our relationship with the conference is very valued,” Southern Wells Principal Chad Yencer said. “If there is any other conceivable outcome that will allow us to remain affiliated with the conference, we want to explore those. Right now, it is still a matter of discussion and deliberation within our school.”
Southern Wells’ decision to drop some of the ACAC teams from its football schedule was done because there were concerns that the Class A school’s enrollment would drop from 280 to near 200, leaving it as one of the three or four smallest football-playing schools in the state. The school system, though, has gotten some benefits from the statewide open-enrollment policy that has brought in some students from Montpelier and Warren.
Yencer said any increases from out-of-district transfers aren’t reliable from year-to-year, and the school has been dealing with more pressing athletic matters recently, including breaking in a new AD in Ben Mann and the possibility of playing all of its home games elsewhere because the drought left the Raiders’ field practically unplayable.