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Aurora Christian

Suburban Christian Conference split carries widespread ramifications

Aurora Christian's Cory Windle (85) catches a touchdown pass against Winnebago at Aurora Christian in Aurora, IL on Saturday, November 10, 2012 (Sean King for The Kane County Chronicle)
Aurora Christian's Cory Windle (85) catches a touchdown pass against Winnebago at Aurora Christian in Aurora, IL on Saturday, November 10, 2012 (Sean King for The Kane County Chronicle)

The athletic landscape is about to shift markedly for the area's numerous private high schools.

Seven schools from the Suburban Christian Conference have been added to the Metro Suburban Conference, effective the 2014-15 school year, the MSC announced Thursday afternoon. Aurora Central Catholic and Wheaton Academy are among the schools prepared to bolt the SCC, which also includes local schools Marmion, Rosary, St. Francis and Aurora Christian.

The moves will leave the SCC with only five football-playing members: Aurora Christian, Marmion, St. Francis, Montini and Marian Central. Marmion fields boys sports teams while Rosary competes in girls sports.

Most of the schools leaving the SCC are among the conference's smaller members that struggled in various sports, including football.

"I think the common thread was competitive balance across sports," Wheaton Academy athletic director Andrew Tink said. "I think that was the common thread that I heard as being a reason, and that this 14 team Metro Suburban being split into two divisions allows for much more of a competitive balance than maybe what was found in some sports in the Suburban Christian Conference."

Tink said leaving the SCC was a difficult decision but it was clear enough conference members were determined to go that the MSC made more sense than sticking it out.

"We loved the SCC," Tink said. "We were not the leader in this process at all. We actually love the conference the way it was. It was very tough. We had great relationships with many of the schools in the SCC and we hope to continue to have those great relationships."

Marian Central athletic director Mike McGovern was in meetings Thursday in which the SCC’s future was discussed. The first meeting announced that the seven schools had been accepted; the second had the remaining schools talking about their future.

“It seems like everyone wants to keep the conference intact,” McGovern said. “Our principals will meet next [Wednesday] and decide what direction to take.”

The 12-team SCC is divided into Blue and Gold divisions, though school configurations varied sport by sport and year by year, to the extent that coaches routinely were not sure in which side of the conference their teams were competing.

McGovern figures the SCC will look to add one to three to five members, since maintaining an even number of schools benefits scheduling, especially for football.

Football crossover games between robust programs in the SCC Blue – including four-time defending 5A state champion Montini and other powerhouses such as Marian Central and Aurora Christian – and their counterparts in the SCC Gold were typically routs, likely contributing to the unease felt by many of the conference's smaller schools.

Even Aurora Central Catholic, which had its best football season in more than a decade last fall, was walloped in consecutive weeks late in the season against SCC Blue foes, 41-7 against Marmion and 38-7 against Montini.

In moving conferences, ACC will part ways with archival Marmion. Marmion athletic director Joe Chivari declined to directly address the possibility of playing nonconference games against ACC going forward. Chivari said Marmion already has had substantial conversations with other conferences interested in adding Marmion, but that sticking together with remaining SCC members is also an option.

"It's a little too early to say right now," Chivari said. "We've been contacted by very good athletic conferences that we're in discussions with, so time will tell."

Chivari said sharing a conference with some public schools as opposed to an all-private school model is an option.

"I think an important factor is a conference that continues to offer athletic competition at our level," Chivari said. "We don't plan on joining a conference that isn't going to make us better. Geography, that's a consideration, obviously. Size of schools doesn't always translate into quality athletics so that isn't as important as a track record of a school and their athletics and a conference and their athletics."

Aurora Christian athletic director Dan Beebe said Aurora Christian plans to remain in the SCC, despite its small size being accentuated by the departures. The IHSA lists the school's enrollment at 311, with a multiplier enrollment of 513.15.

"We will be staying in the conference," Beebe said. "We understand the challenges of staying in the conference and staying in the SCC, but we've made a commitment to the conference."

Todd Leden, Fenton principal and the Metro Suburban's board of control president, said the conference voted Wednesday to invite the seven schools after a process that lasted only a few months. He is delighted about the broader range of athletic and extracurricular offerings the MSC will be able to offer.

"It's been an arduous process to try to expand to go from four to seven over a couple years," Leden said. "Now from seven to 14 in one one, fell swoop is overwhelming, but it's fantastic for all of our schools."

The new Metro Suburban will be far-flung geographically, ranging from Elgin in the north to Lansing in the south, and Aurora to the west and Norridge to the east.

Conference stability has been hard to come by for area schools in recent years, public and private.

The Upstate Eight Conference – which includes Batavia, Geneva, St. Charles East and St. Charles North – recently added West Chicago, Glenbard East and West Aurora after losing Lake Park, while Kaneland's conference, the Northern Illinois Big 12, has struggled to find replacements for outgoing members Dixon and Streator.

• Chronicle reporter Kevin Druley and Shaw Media's Joe Stevenson contributed to this report.

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