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Prep Sports

Ottawa listening, but has no plans to leave I-8 Conference

Ottawa tacklers take down a Sycamore ballcarrier during the 2015 season.
Ottawa tacklers take down a Sycamore ballcarrier during the 2015 season.

Ottawa, La Salle-Peru and Rochelle provided the Interstate 8 with notice the schools are exploring other conference options, according to Sycamore principal Tim Carlson, though Ottawa athletics director Mike Cooper says there are no plans in place for OHS to leave the I-8 after joining at the start of the next school year.

Cooper said members of the old North Central Illinois Conference (NCIC) approached Ottawa Superintendent Michael Cushing, and given the "50 or 60 years of history" with the old conference, they heard them out.

He said there are no plans in place for a move. As for how he sees it playing out, he is uncertain.

"I honestly don't know," Cooper said.

The NCIC had the same 12 schools as members from 1964 until 2006, when Rochelle left for the Western Sun. The end of the venerable conference eventually came in 2011.

Sycamore athletics director Chauncey Carrick said he was told the discussions were taking place between Ottawa, L-P and Rochelle, as well as Streator, Mendota, Hall and Princeton. The other members of the NCIC between 1964 and 2006 were Dixon, Sterling, Geneseo, Rock Falls and Kewanee.

Plano and Sandwich began rebuilding the I-8 in late 2017 and early 2018 after a mass exodus of current schools, including first Seneca to the Sangamon Valley/Tri-County conferences and then Streator along with seven others to form the future Illinois Central Eight.

Morris, La Salle-Peru, Ottawa and Rochelle were all initially invited to the new I-8, and in January the conference added Geneseo — which then changed its mind after an invite to the Western Big 6. Sycamore was added in March 2018, then Kaneland was brought in on a provisional basis to put the league at eight teams.

Ottawa, La Salle-Peru, Rochelle, Sycamore, Kaneland, Morris, Plano and Sandwich will be the new Interstate Eight at the start of next school year.

Beginning in 2021, football will no longer use conferences, and instead have districts as assigned by the IHSA. Conferences will still be used in other sports.

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