Villa Grove, Heritage plan to leave LOVC; more departures expected

Villa Grove, Heritage plan to leave LOVC; more departures expected

In its fourth academic year, the two-division Little Okaw Valley Conference is facing major change. At least two schools in the 18-institution league have filed for withdrawal, and more notifications could be on the way.

In a press release Tuesday, Villa Grove athletic director Noreen Acton announced her school submitted a letter to leave the LOVC, effective for the 2019-2020 school year.

Reasons given for the action were “uncertainty of schools being able to field teams, low attendance at events and lack of natural rivalries.”

The letter did not indicate which conference Villa Grove, which co-ops with Heritage in multiple sports, might attempt to join. Acton declined further comment Tuesday, while Villa Grove principal Stephen Killion and superintendent Norm Tracy could not be reached for comment.

The Heritage Schools Twitter account later Tuesday confirmed Heritage also submitted a withdrawal letter to the LOVC, effective for the 2019-2020 academic year.

In additional tweets, the account said “issues of travel and competitive balance in the current LOVC were parts of the reasoning” for the school’s decision. It also wasn’t clear which conference Heritage might join.

Meanwhile, the (Mattoon) Journal Gazette & Times-Courier reported Tuesday that Arcola principal Lisa Sigrist has been authorized to submit a withdrawal letter to the LOVC on her school’s behalf.

That choice was made Monday at a special Arcola School Board meeting, but the board determined Sigrist could only utilize this option “if the situation by Friday warrants a change,” per a school district press release.

Friday is the deadline for schools to officially submit a withdrawal letter to the LOVC, though a conference governing board meeting Tuesday was set to discuss, among other items, moving that date to Jan. 1, 2018.

Arcola Schools superintendent Tom Mulligan on Monday, according to the Journal Gazette & Times-Courier, said multiple LOVC members have brought up the idea of a new conference that would involve at least 10 “stable” football teams.

Mulligan, Sigrist and Arcola athletic director Nick Lindsey could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Okaw Valley principal Matt Shoaff is the LOVC president. Brooks Inman, Okaw Valley’s athletic director, said Tuesday multiple schools have submitted letters of withdrawal, indicating they came primarily from the Northwest Division schools. Inman declined to provide specific schools or how many are leaving.

Prior to the 2014-15 school year, the LOVC’s football programs consisted of Arcola, Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond, Cerro Gordo/Bement, Martinsville, Tri-County (Kansas, Oakland and Shiloh) and Villa Grove/Heritage. From 2014-15 onward, they have been joined by Argenta-Oreana, Cumberland, Decatur Lutheran, Oblong, Palestine-Hutsonville and Sangamon Valley.

Okaw Valley co-ops in football with Sullivan, which is in the Central Illinois Conference. Blue Ridge played independently in football this season and is set to join the LOVC in that capacity next school year. The Knights compete in the Heart of Illinois Conference in other sports.