"Illini Prairie" selected as name for Okaw Valley-Corn Belt merger

"Illini Prairie" selected as name for Okaw Valley-Corn Belt merger

The new conference consisting of the 10 remaining teams in the Okaw Valley and Corn Belt Conferences will be named the Illini Prairie Conference, the conference announced Wednesday.

The conference will begin play during the 2017-2018 school year.

“We thought it was a good geographical representation of where we were and would apply to all 10 of our members as to where we are in the state,” said St. Thomas More principal Ryan Bustle, the president of the Okaw Valley Conference. “We wanted it to be something that people would be proud of.”

The conferences officially merged after Pontiac became the last school board to approve it last Tuesday.

Each school brought a list of names to this week’s meeting between principals, and the names were eventually whittled down before the ultimate decision was made. Officers were also appointed and nominated, Bustle said.

A process that began with exploratory talks in February officially came to an end with Wednesday’s announcement.

“We’ve got schedules already made and ready to go and we’ll be just as competitive as it’s always been,” Bustle said, “and after next season wraps up, we can get our own rivalries going, keeping the great tradition that the Okaw has and mixing it with the schools the Corn Belt has.”