Tippecanoe County schools will make up one-fourth of an expanded North Central Conference.
The Tippecanoe School Corp. board of trustees unanimously approved the recommendation of Harrison and McCutcheon administrators to accept invitations of membership from the NCC at Wednesday’s regular meeting. That followed a similar action from the Lafayette School Corp. board on Monday regarding Lafayette Jeff’s invitation.
During Wednesday night’s work session, Harrison Principal Doug Lesley said school officials were skeptical at times about joining the NCC, but have spent the last four months getting a feel for what the conference is all about.
Now, Lesley said, the schools are “unified” in their desire to join.
“I don’t think that there’s any recommendation that you’ve seen from Harrison and McCutcheon that is as unified as we are on this subject,” Lesley told board members. “We’re absolutely committed to doing what’s in the best interest of our student-athletes, our students, our coaches, our administrators and our communities, and we believe this recommendation will do that.”
Jay County has also been invited to join the NCC, which is expanding from eight to 12 teams beginning with the 2014-15 school year. The conference released a statement on Tuesday, attributed to NCC sports information director Michael Austin, which read:
“In keeping with the North Central Conference’s commitment to maintaining its stature as one of the state’s premier conferences, the principals of the North Central Conference (NCC) voted on Thursday, February 7th to expand the conference membership from eight to twelve schools.
“As a result of the vote, the North Central Conference sent out invitations to prospective schools.
“The conference understands that a process has been followed in making this decision and understands that those schools have a process that must be played out in their communities as well. Once the NCC has received a decision from each of the schools involved, a formal announcement will be made.
“Information on schedule changes will be announced after all twelve schools have met to discuss the expansion’s effect on each sport in the conference.”
Harrison, Lafayette Jeff and McCutcheon shared membership in the Hoosier Crossroads Conference since Lafayette Jeff joined before the 2004-05 school year. The other seven HCC schools announced in December that they would end their affiliation with the county schools after the 2013-14 school year.
McCutcheon athletic director Ryan Walden said he was encouraged by the NCC’s openness in the process up until this point.
“We’ve very enthused that they want our input,” Walden told board members. “They want to invite us to the table.”
TSC board member Linda Day said she was encouraged that school leaders came to the same conclusion.
“This is the first time I’ve ever heard both athletic directors and both principals speak in favor of something without reservations,” Day said.
The North Central Conference has existed as an eight-team conference for much of its 87-year history. Current members are Anderson, Huntington North, Logansport, Kokomo, Marion, Muncie Central, New Castle and Richmond.