CHARLOTTESVILLE — The future landscape of the Mid-Hoosier Conference is uncertain.
After Indian Creek announced it would join the Western Indiana Conference at season’s end, Eastern Hancock and Knightstown decided they, too, would intend to find a new conference home for the next school year.
No decision where or if the schools will move has been made.
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If the Royals and Panthers do indeed switch, the MHC will drop from 10 to seven schools, mostly Class A programs south of Hancock County.
Eastern Hancock, which joined the conference during the 2012-13 season, originally planned to form a conference with schools closer in the area that would eliminate long weeknight travel. The Royals also want all sports to compete together.
Currently, the football team plays in the Mid-Indiana Football Conference against schools in the MHC that also have football programs, as well as Milan. The MHC does not offer wrestling, either.
However, one school, which Eastern Hancock athletics director Aaron Spaulding didn’t name, decided to opt out of previously discussed plans to bring a new conference to life.
“There were talks earlier in the year with Knightstown, Shenandoah and Lapel, kind of our old conference (White River Athletic Conference), and some other school possibilities,” Spaulding said. “Unfortunately, there were no other schools that were able to go.
“Indian Creek was leaving, and they (MHC) wanted to add some schools that were really far distances for us. We didn’t feel that was in our best interest.”
With three schools located at least an hour drive away by school bus, Spaulding said teams that compete during the week have trouble returning to Charlottesville at a decent hour in the night.
“The travel time has always been a downfall for us and the MHC,” he said. “Indian Creek was an hour and 17 minutes away. We have a lot of distance in the conference. It’s not a big deal for sports that play on the weekend.
“There are geographic concerns you must consider. If we go west, the Indianapolis schools are going to be much larger so that’s not going to work. There’s a lot of things to consider.”
Neither Eastern Hancock or Knightstown are currently in the MHC’s future scheduling plans, but Spaulding said with this particular situation, nothing can be ruled out.
“We haven’t confirmed anything now,” he said. “We haven’t officially decided we are leaving.”
Spaulding explained that switching conferences does not happen overnight. Numerous steps must be completed first and a decision may not be made until the end of the school year.
“It’s kind of hard to move, because you have to make sure that conference wants you,” Spaulding said. “Obviously, schools are evolving and changing. You have to make adjustments as your school’s needs change over time.”
The Royals competed in the WRAC with Shenandoah and Lapel for several years before spending time as an independent and later joining the MHC in 2012. The conference began with eight teams and slowly dwindled down to just three.
In Eastern Hancock’s short time in the MHC, the school has dominated in track and field and cross-country with success in various other sports, as well. In September the girls cross-country team won the conference meet for the fourth year in a row.