Starting in the 2015-16 school year, Huntington North High School will leave the North Central Conference (NCC) and begin competing in a new athletic conference.
The announcement came last week, Thursday, June 6. The new conference has not yet been named, but will contain six schools - Bellmont, Columbia City, DeKalb, East Noble, New Haven and Norwell - from the Northeast Hoosier Conference, which is disbanding after the 2014-15 school year.
When those half dozen schools decided to stick together, they went looking for two other schools to join them in a new conference. That opened up an opportunity for Huntington North, says Michael Gasaway, the school's athletic director.
"Them six went looking for two more schools that they felt were a fit for what they wanted to do," he says. "So, basically, there was just a lot of talking. We got a formal invitation, as well as Concordia and Leo and Angola to sit down and talk with those six schools and just to see where we're at and see if we're a good fit for each another."
On Wednesday, June 5, Huntington North was invited to join the conference. The school accepted the invitation the next day, filling out the new conference along with Leo.
"It's a very good financial situation for all the schools involved because we all have a lot of community support from all our schools," Gasaway says. "For football, it'll be nice to see some big crowds on the sidelines. Basketball, same way. Whenever we play those Norwell's and Columbia City's and Bellmont's now, it's good crowds. So, now for it to be conference games, it's going to be really neat."
NCC schools are further away from Huntington North than schools in the new conference and Gasaway looks forward to the game atmospheres that will result from playing closer schools.
NCC member Richmond, for instance, is two hours away from Huntington North, whereas new conference mate Columbia City is just 30 minutes north.
"When we play Homestead, we have an absolute great crowd," he notes. "When we play a Richmond, we have a decent crowd, but most of it's Huntington North people. Richmond brings people and you've got to commend their community members for driving up here and vice versa, when we go down there, commend ours, but the fact is, if it's us and Columbia City for the conference championship for a football game, as opposed to us and Richmond for a championship game, it's just a no-brainer what it's going to be like, the atmosphere."
Huntington North joined the NCC in 2003. Gasaway says the experience of being a member has been a positive one.
"The NCC has been tremendous for us," he says. "As a historian, I have love for the NCC and what it's about and the tradition and all that. Definitely leaving the NCC on great terms. It's not a bad situation whatsoever.
"We just had to decide what was best for our student-athletes and what our community members felt was important and we also got feedback from our school board, so it was one of those deals where we just had to make a decision and it was definitely a tough one."
Even after making the switch, Gasaway says it's a distinct possibility that Huntington North teams will still play NCC schools, as part of their non-conference schedules.
"The schools have been great to work with," he states, "and we still want to play those schools."
As excited as Gasaway is for Huntington North to join the new conference, he's sensed the same level of enthusiasm from the community.
"Everybody I've talked to has said ‘What a great move, what a great fit.' People are excited about the change," he says.