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Daily Journal
     May 29, 2020      #73-150 KDJ

Local SVC schools react to conference

By Cody Smith

As the cyclical game of musical chairs hit local conferences with a wave last week, as many as three area schools are looking for a place to sit.

Last week, Cissna Park, Iroquois West and Watseka were approved as new members of the Vermilion Valley Conference. The trio of schools will be joining Paxton-Buckley-Loda (Illini Prairie Conference) as SVC schools who have decided to jump ship and head to a new conference.

The remaining SVC schools are Central, Dwight and Momence as the only three full-time SVC members, and Seneca is a part-time SVC member for football in the fall.

The news came as a shock to most, but Central athletic director Jeff Fenton said he saw it coming miles away once P-B-L decided to make the first move.

“Unfortunately, when P-B-L left, I kind of expected there to be lots of changes,” Fenton said. “We’ve tried getting other schools to join us, but they all kind of fell through so far.”

Although Central has no immediate plans in regard to their decision to either recruit new members for the SVC or find a new conference home, they do feel as though they are in a better position than their SVC counterparts.

“It’s probably going to be a geographic thing more because schools have got to want to come to us,” Fenton said. “Central is probably the best of the four groups if you include Seneca as far as travel because we are close.”

Going forward, Fenton said he will continue to explore options as to what is the best route for Central.

“We have been exploring a few different options, and we are still looking,” Fenton said. “We’ve looked at being a part of the VVC. … It’s just all up in the air at the moment.”

Similarly to Fenton, Dwight athletic director Andrew Pittenger said he had no hard feelings toward the local teams when he found out the recent news.

“Obviously, they think that’s the right move for their school, and I’m never going to fault anybody for making a move that benefits them and their school,” Pittenger said. “I’m not bitter. … It’s one of those situations where it is what it is.

“Now, it’s time to start doing some work and finding a new home for us.”

Pittenger said he knows how crucial a football program is for a high school, so he has been putting all his attention into finding them a new conference.

“The tricky one will be football. ... Everyone in the state conferences are driven by football,” Pittenger said. “So, that’s our main concern, and we are trying to find a home for football right now.

“I’m not concerned about the other sports. If we find a conference that will take us for all sports and football that’s great.”

Although Pittenger wants to be able to secure a conference for his football team, he said he knows it won’t be easy given how small his school is relative to the surrounding areas. The Trojans, similar to all members of the new Illinois Central Eight Conference, were a part of the Interstate Eight Conference before moving to the SVC in 2014.

“We are just in an unfortunate situation geographically that there is not a lot of [Class] 1A or 2A football around us,” Pittenger said. “So, our options are pretty limited there. Although we have limited options, we do have a few different options that we are looking at to find a home for conference football.”

Pittenger said he couldn’t go into detail in regard to the current options he is looking into for his school. However, that did not stop him from mentioning the possibility of being a part of two conferences — one for football and another for other sports.

“It’s a little bit easier with the River Valley Conference and the Tri-county being options as far as options for the other sports,” Pittenger said. “Those two conferences actually match up perfectly enrollment-wise, and it’s not too bad geographically, but neither one of those conferences have football.”

Momence athletic director Ted Rounds could not be reached for comment.

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