BLITZ: Stagnant area conference schedules need a facelift

North Side football players go through drills during July 13 workouts to prepare for the coming season.

In 1989, the new Northeast Hoosier Conference emerged with eight teams as part of its inaugural season – some from the Allen County Athletic Conference and others from the defunct Northeast Indiana Athletic Conference.

Ruoff Mortgage

The excitement that fall was huge, bringing together some of the outlying schools in northeast Indiana – from Columbia City to Carroll, Bellmont to Homestead.

The first conference games that fall in the NHC were played in Week 2 and had the following games:

Norwell at Carroll
Columbia City at Bellmont
Homestead at East Noble
DeKalb at New Haven

In 2020, the Week 3 is the first time the now-Northeast 8 will play league games. That schedule is as follows:

Bellmont at Columbia City
East Noble at Huntington North
New Haven at DeKalb
Norwell at Leo

Eagle-eyed folks will see that the schedule is exactly the same, but with Huntington North in the place of Homestead and Leo in for Carroll.

In fact, the original NHC schedule(now NE8) has never changed other than the two teams leaving and two entering. In 31 years, teams play the exact same teams in the same order…year after year after year.

How ridiculous.

In reaching out to various coaches in all leagues in northeast Indiana, many would welcome more of a rotation in when they play conference opponents. While the lack of adjustments in the NHC/NE8 is the most prevalent, the SAC and ACAC have suffered through the same stagnant schedule for several years.

Norwell and DeKalb clash during an October 4, 2019 game.

For the fifth straight season, North Side is set to open its regular season with Snider, Bishop Dwenger and Carroll. The Panthers and Saints have, in some capacity, won the SAC in 13 of the last 15 years.

“Last year when we started 0-3, we had about 10 kids just quit the team,” North Side coach Mike Brevard said. “Most weren’t key guys, but it was that mindset of, ‘Here we go, North Side football sucks again.'”

Interestingly, the Legends recovered to go 4-2 the rest of the regular season, leading to the other side of the coin in North’s case.

“Once we got past those first three games and started playing well and winning, that really helped us get some momentum,” Brevard said. “So while I would like to see things mixed up a bit, we have reached a point in our program where we feel we aren’t afraid to play Snider and Bishop Dwenger right out of the gate.”

Conversely, Bishop Dwenger has opened with Wayne, North and South each season since 2016. The Saints are 12-0 in those games, yet twice have lost Week 4 to Homestead during that span. Could a mix-up of the schedule help Bishop Dwenger?

In the ACAC, the annual clash of Adams County between Adams Central and South Adams has been held in Week 6 of the season every year since 1997. While there is something to be said about continuity in the schedule, could fans benefit from a clash of those teams to begin the conference season? Or better yet, Week 9 with a league championship on the line?

Eastside’s Wade Miller (84) and teammates celebrate a touchdown during an October 25, 2019 sectional game at Woodlan.

Blitz received a myriad of opinions on why the stagnation of the schedules is a thing when speaking to coaches. Some see the scheduling of officials multiple years into the future as a reason why athletic directors do not want to tackle a different schedule, while others frankly point to one thing – laziness.

In an athletic director’s list of responsibilities, coming up with a new schedule for a team and a conference isn’t high on the priority list, particularly as more schools get rid of their athletic secretaries, therefore putting more onus on the AD to take care of all things sports.

But some leagues have figured out a way to diversify the schedule without making radical changes. For instance, every two years the Central Indiana Conference bumps the league schedule up one week, with the first conference opponent of the year thereby going to the back end of the schedule. While there is no major revamp, it does make for a different look to the season, and it still allows ADs to plan years ahead with officials.

Another aspect of the debate is the avoidance of teams playing back-to-back weeks. In 2012 and North Side and Northrop met in both Week 9 and the first week of sectional play seven days later. That same occurrence happened with the Bruins and Homestead in 2015.

If and win conferences alter their league schedules, avoiding teams in the same sectional playing Week 9 will be a priority.

There are always two sides to every debate, for the person (or bear) that wants to see a variable schedule that sees things mixed up every few years, there are others who love the date equity with East Noble always playing Leo in Week 5 and Adams Central facing off with Woodlan in Week 9 every October.

While the schedule is not much of an issue this season purely because we are hoping for ANY type of season with the pandemic, Blitz would like to see a more concerted effort from the leagues to deviate from the norm and spice up the matchups we see and when we see them.

These opinions represent those of Blitz and Outside the Huddle. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. Follow Blitz on Twitter at Blitz_OTH

2 Comments

  1. I think the NE8 has a little more variety than the SAC as some teams can (and do) change up their first two non conference games periodically. I see some of this in the NECC also. It can leave you scrambling on occasion, like when you find out one of those teams double booked and bid you adieu.

    Some coaches do an outstanding job of getting their athletes concentrating on one game at a time. Granted it’s different when you’re winning and trying to get your athletes not thinking this week is a trap game versus you’re struggling and you’re trying to prevent your athletes from getting discouraged.

    In general I think mixing in a few different teams in the early non conference games makes more of a difference than playing the same teams, but just on different weeks.

Leave a Reply