The Corn Belt Conference will have eight members once the 2014-15 school year arrives.
The conference met Thursday and approved 6-1 to add Chillicothe Illinois Valley Central to the league. Conference president Lance Thurman, the principal at Stanford Olympia, said approval required a two-thirds majority vote, but he declined to say who voted against the measure.
Chillicothe IVC, whose nickname is the Grey Ghosts and is currently in the Mid-State Six Conference, will replace Rantoul, pending approval by the Chillicothe school board, Thurman said. The Eagles announced last fall they were leaving the Corn Belt to join the revamped Okaw Valley Conference.
Thurman said the conference may still try to add teams.
Last spring, Lincoln, Peoria Notre Dame and Streator, along with Chillicothe IVC, expressed interest in the league. Streator appears likely to head to the Interstate Eight Conference and replace Dwight, which will move to the Sangamon Valley Conference. If Streator would have still been interested in joining the Corn Belt, the league likely would have voted to add Chillicothe IVC and Lincoln to form a 10-team conference.
“The challenge for us throughout this process has been, and will continue to be, geography,” Thurman said. “I’m not sure if that plays well in Peoria Notre Dame’s favor. There definitely is a desire to still expand. We’d really like to get to that 10-team conference. I’m glad we’ve addressed that first issue in finding an eighth school.”
The closest trip Mahomet-Seymour will now have is 39 miles to Bloomington Central Catholic. The longest trip is to Chillicothe IVC (98 miles). The average road trip for the Bulldogs to conference games will consist of 59 miles.
“We’re committed to the Corn Belt Conference at this time,” Mahomet-Seymour athletic director Matt Hensley said. “This is what the Corn Belt Conference looks like now. It expands our boundaries a little bit. We’ve had those conversations at the local level and as a conference. We’re going to make sure we do everything in our power to look out not only for our own interests but the interests of the conference as a whole.”
Thurman said the league wanted to avoid having an odd number of schools, which would create hassles in terms of scheduling. When the Corn Belt found out Streator, a current member of the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference, wanted to cast its lot with the I-8, a decision to add Lincoln, currently part of the Central State Eight Conference, was put on hold because that would have created a nine-team Corn Belt Conference.
“The conference expansion piece is a complex and big animal right now,” Thurman said. “It’s certainly not over at all. I wish it was and that we had 10 solid teams. I’d certainly be relieved. If we get an opportunity that we would be able to consider Lincoln a partner in the future, we’d like to. We thought they had a lot that would add to the conference.”