New Castle’s divorce proceedings with the North Central Conference sped up Tuesday with the announcement that the Trojans would compete in individual conference tournaments within the Hoosier Heritage Conference this school year, one year ahead of schedule.
The Trojans will also compete for team titles in all sports in which they’re able to schedule the other HHC squads this school year.
On June 10, New Castle, a charter member of the NCC since 1926, decided to leave the conference at the end of the 2013-14 school year, citing travel costs and the recently approved addition to the NCC of Lafayette Jeff, Harrison and McCutcheon, which New Castle voted against.
Shortly thereafter, New Castle accepted membership to the HHC, which includes Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon, New Palestine, Pendleton Heights, Delta, Shelbyville and Yorktown.
In the two-plus months since New Castle voted to leave the NCC, discord set in between some NCC schools and the Trojans. There was talk of forcing New Castle to pay an exit fee to the NCC, and some schools threatened to void already scheduled 2013-14 athletic contests.
Logansport Athletic Director Greg Fisher told the New Castle Courier-Times that New Castle failed to follow proper exit procedures in leaving the NCC and would be charged a fee of $2,000 per school to compete in the NCC this year.
On Friday, IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox, New Castle officials and administrators from NCC schools Anderson, Huntington North, Kokomo, Logansport, Marion, Muncie Central and Richmond met to hammer out an agreement.
The NCC later released a statement that read, in part: “As a result of that meeting, and in the best interest of the student athletes and communities of the North Central Conference and New Castle, the NCC Schools and New Castle will void all current and future NCC conference dates (excluding football for the 2013 season). NCC Schools wishing to schedule New Castle may do so on a school-by-school basis.”
That decision left New Castle athletes without any conference championships to play for this school year, so the HHC stepped in to welcome their new member a year early. The HHC courted New Castle after former member Rushville left for the Eastern Indiana Conference, effective this school year.
The full statement by the HHC, released Tuesday:
“The Hoosier Heritage Conference is excited to have New Castle High School compete during the current school year (2013-14) in tournament competitions of Cheerleading, Girls Golf, Boys Cross Country, Girls Cross Country, Boys Swimming, Girls Swimming, Wrestling, Boys Track, Girls Track, Boys Golf.
“In each of these events, New Castle will be eligible for both HHC championship status as well as individual athlete recognitions. For any other sport in which New Castle is able to compete with all seven current HHC schools, that sport will also qualify as a conference event thus garnering New Castle and it’s athletes any potential recognitions. Additionally, New Castle will be included in all academic competitions with the HHC this year.
“Other sport competitions between individual HHC member schools and New Castle will be considered a non-conference match for this year.
“Beginning with the 2014-15 school year, New Castle will become a full participant in the Hoosier Heritage Conference in all athletic events.”
Greenfield-Central athletic director Kevin Horrigan told the Daily Reporter that the HHC hopes to establish a welcoming atmosphere for the New Castle athletic community in light of the upheaval in the NCC.
“We all feel bad for New Castle, especially their seniors,” Horrigan said. “Hopefully, this gesture on behalf of the HHC towards New Castle in some small way helps to afford their student-athletes and coaches a form of recognition.
“All of the HHC schools are very excited about the addition of New Castle into our conference.”