Jay County Superintendent Tim Long said he plans to recommend Jay County High School join the Allen County Athletic Conference at a Monday school board meeting, which could be a key step toward the Patriots picking up conference affiliation.
Jay County also received an invitation from the North Central Conference, and Long said after careful consideration, he decided to recommend the ACAC. He cited familiarity with the schools and travel considerations as major reasons for the choice. Many of Jay County’s middle school teams play squads that feed into ACAC high schools, and Long hopes it will help develop rivalries by the time athletes reach the high school level.
“We play a lot of those schools,” Long said. “And we can tailor our schedule to meet a lot of their middle school, junior high areas, which will save us on travel and movement. That was probably the biggest factor, I thought.”
The ACAC has eight members, though one, Southern Wells, has not competed in the league for football since 2009.
Long said his understanding is the ACAC has invited Jay County to be a ninth member, and the invitation is to begin play in the 2014-15 school year.
Jay County would be the southern-most member of the ACAC if it accepts, and the league’s footprint surrounds Fort Wayne, though none of its schools are located within the city limits.
If they join the ACAC, the Patriots will be competing against smaller schools. In the IHSAA’s recently-released enrollment list for 2013-14 and 14-15 classifications, Jay County was listed with an enrollment of 1,113, larger than any ACAC member. Leo, the largest current member of the ACAC, is listed at 932.
In the North Central Conference, Jay County would be one of the league’s smallest members. Anderson is that league’s largest member at 1,884 students. Lafayette Jefferson, which has agreed to join the NCC for the 14-15 school year, is listed at 1,935 students. Central and New Castle are the only current members of the NCC smaller than Jay County, according to the IHSAA enrollment numbers.
Long said he didn’t spend much time considering school size when he pondered which conference to recommend.
“I don’t think that was a determining factor at all,” Long said. “I just think, like I said, when you really looked at the mileage and you considered the middle-school sports aspect of it, those were the two biggest things for me.”
After Long makes his recommendation, it will be up to the school board to make a final decision.
Jay County is in its third year of independence. It was previously in the Olympic Athletic Conference, which folded when Anderson Highland closed and the three remaining members no longer saw the league as viable. Connersville, another final member of the OAC, is scheduled to join the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference for the 2013-14 school year. Southside, the other final member of the OAC, remains independent.
“We went a couple years where we really didn’t have any opportunities to get into anything,” Long said. “Now we’ve got an opportunity, kind of when it rains it pours. You’ve got two people that are there, and you’re looking at. But I see some of the conference things all over the state, in a little bit of flux.”