After 43 years in the Hoosier Hills Conference, Columbus East might soon be looking for a new home.
East athletics director Pete Huse said Madison, the conference’s smallest school, is considering seeking independent status, while the next smallest schools — Jennings County and Seymour — might be looking at switching conferences.
If those three schools bolt, that would leave the HHC with only five schools — likely not enough to sustain a major conference. With that scenario a concern, Huse said he has put out feelers to the Mid-State Conference to gauge its interest in adding East as an eighth school should the HHC fall apart.
But Jennings athletics director Mike Broughton said his school has not made any move as far as presenting anything to schools in the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference, which has been their rumored destination.
“We’re one of the smallest schools in the (HHC) now, and we’ve wondered if we’re a viable option for the HHC, and right now, we think we are,” Broughton said.
Seymour athletics director Kirk Manns declined to comment.
With football appearing to be the sticking point for the smaller schools, Huse and Broughton said the conference’s athletics directors have discussed going to a big school and a small school division for the sport. East, Floyd Central, Jeffersonville and New Albany would be in the big school division, while Bedford North Lawrence, Jennings, Madison and Seymour would be in the small school division.
The Olympians, who have won 70 consecutive HHC football games and have won or shared the conference title each of the past 13 years, actually are smaller than Bedford North Lawrence and are among the bottom half of the HHC in enrollment. But those schools would trade places to ensure more competitive balance.
“We have a school like Madison that has 800 enrollment, and you have a school like Jeffersonville with 2,000,” Broughton said. “Baseball, you only need 11 kids. Basketball, you need six or seven. Football, you need a lot of bodies. I think football is an issue because really, to put out a team, you need at least 30 to 35 guys that can plan on a Friday night.”
If the HHC does go to the two-division format, it likely wouldn’t happen until at least 2018 since schools would have to find four more non-conference games to fill their schedules.
“It’s hard to get teams to play,” Broughton said. “You’d have to look at it as, ‘Can we fill in the schedule. You still have to find an opponent. It’s something we’ll discuss in the weeks ahead.”
Broughton said those discussions likely will happen at the winter athletics directors meeting in January.
A look at the Hoosier Hills Conference schools by enrollment:
Bedford North Lawrence;1,571