Prairie Division schools consider split from North Suburban Conference

The North Suburban Conference might be breaking up.

The athletics group, comprised of 14 Lake County high schools, is currently split into two seven-team divisions — Lake and Prairie. The members of the Prairie Division announced on Monday that they are looking into the possibility of leaving the NSC and creating their own conference.

“They feel that by forming their own conference, they would be better serving their own communities,” said Jim McKay, the NSC president and superintendent of Community High School District 117, which includes Prairie Division programs Antioch and Lakes.

McKay would not offer specifics regarding how a separation would benefit the schools that are considering a move, although the generally smaller enrollment numbers of the Prairie Division schools may be a factor.

He noted the competitive disadvantage lower-enrollment programs face in football. Lake and Prairie teams mostly play opponents from their own divisions; however, when the bigger schools kick off against the smaller ones, the larger schools win 87 percent of the time, according to McKay.

McKay noted that the conference — which has expanded steadily since it was created with four schools in 1956 — devoted a subcommittee in the last year to the idea of adding schools in Grayslake or Waukegan.

The subcommittee, chaired by Wauconda Community Unit School District 118 Superintendent Dan Coles, recommended keeping the conference at its current size. Wauconda is in the Prairie Division.

“The conference has been considering expansion for at least the past year,” McKay said. “Staying intact might prompt others to consider other options.”

The NSC has gone through a growth spurt since 2000. It added Vernon Hills, Grant, Round Lake and Wauconda in 2001 and Lake Zurich and Lakes in 2006.

McKay said revenue and funding had nothing to do with the possibility of a split.

“This really doesn’t have a financial impact, per se,” he said.

Eric Twadell, superintendent of Stevenson High School (a Lake Division member) mentioned the possibility to his School Board during its Monday meeting.

“It raises a lot of questions for us, about what the North Suburban Conference is going to look like,” Twadell told the board.

Should the idea come to a vote, that decision would be made by the superintendents of the 14 members schools. At the Lake Division’s Mundelein High School, athletic director Perry Wilhelm noted that the majority of each team’s schedule is against members of its own division.

“All I’m hearing is speculation,” Wilhelm said Tuesday. “I’m sure we’ll make the best of it.

We’re competing in a very good conference, and I don’t think that will change.”

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