Four express interest in joining Corn Belt

Four express interest in joining Corn Belt

MAHOMET — The Corn Belt Conference has been formally approached by four schools about possible membership.

The president of the Corn Belt — Pontiac principal Jon Kilgore — received "letters of interest" from Lincoln, Peoria Notre Dame, Streator and Chillicothe IVC, according to Mahomet-Seymour athletic director Matt Hensley.

The issue of whether the eight-school Corn Belt should expand is in the talking stages, Hensley said Monday, and he emphasized, "There has been no formal extension of any offer to any school."

Corn Belt principals and athletic directors are next scheduled to meet jointly on May 2 in Bloomington.

"I would expect there either to be some further dialogue or some closure to the issue," Hensley said.

Lincoln currently is a member of the Central State Eight Conference. Peoria Notre Dame belongs to the Mid-State Six; Streator to the Northern Illinois Big 12; and IVC to the North Central Illinois Conference.

The addition of any new member would require the approval of a two-thirds majority of current Corn Belt schools.

Hensley expects some Corn Belt members to resist because it would further expand the conference's already wide geographic footprint. Applicants that could be welcome to a northern member like Eureka or Pontiac might create unacceptable travel and cost burdens for southernmost members like Mahomet-Seymour and Rantoul.

The enrollment numbers of prospective new members also figure to be an issue, with smaller Corn Belt schools like Bloomington Central Catholic (398 students) and Eureka (470) weighing whether it's in their best interest to add bigger rivals. The four schools that have expressed interest in the Corn Belt have enrollments ranging from 732 (IVC) to 913 (Streator).

"I think because of the size differences and the geographic locations that each of the conference schools are in, everybody has their own unique perspective," Hensley said. "So coming to a commonality of opinion would certainly be a challenge."

If the conference were to add members, Hensley said he would not expect it to happen by the 2012-13 school year.

"I don't think anything is on the immediate horizon," he said.

Hensley also indicated that the M-S administration currently is not inclined toward conference expansion.

"We're very happy with the Corn Belt Conference the way it is right now," he said.

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