Sometime in June, the Mid-State Conference will complete its 76th year as one of Indiana’s high school athletics leagues.
Fanfare will be minimal, if present at all.
Formed Nov. 25, 1941, as an eight-school conference, the Mid-State has entertained spectators and crowned champions — all while keeping membership turnover to a minimum.
The league presently features seven schools. Four are founding members, while two others have been on board no less than 35 years. Martinsville, the most recent new addition, is starting its 12th year.
Story continues below gallery
Greenwood, Mooresville and Plainfield have been part of the Mid-State Conference since the beginning. Charter member Decatur Central stayed until 1971, departed for other conference affiliations (Central Suburban, Conference Indiana) and eventually returned in 2005.
Rob Irwin, the second-year athletics director at Greenwood Community High School, said geography is one of the factors that makes the Mid-State Conference unique.
“It’s nice that we’re all pretty close, so we get to keep some of our rivalries, where some of the other conferences are traveling so far that you kind of lose that,” Irwin said.
Greenwood’s enrollment of 1,156 students makes it the league’s smallest high school by a relatively significant margin (Mooresville has the second fewest with 1,420).
Whiteland, with an enrollment of 1,897, is the largest school in the Mid-State Conference at this time.
The Warriors’ affiliation dates back to the 1968-69 school year.
Prior to that, Whiteland athletics teams competed in the Mid-Hoosier Conference (1965-68) and the Johnson County Conference (1920-65). The latter included small Johnson County schools such as Clark Township, Hopewell, Nineveh, Trafalgar and Union Township before the consolidation boom of the 1960s.
Whiteland’s projected growth an additional, approximate 2,300 students by the 2024-25 school year.
This would elevate the school to Class 6A status in football — New Albany is currently the smallest public-school 6A program with an enrollment of 1,988 — and potentially make Warriors athletics programs better suited for a conference catering to larger high schools.
In the meantime, fifth-year Whiteland athletics director Ken Sears, a three-sport Warrior athlete during the late 1970s, said the school is in no hurry to leave.
Sears said that in his first four years on the job, two other conferences have demonstrated an interest in making Whiteland part of their leagues.
“As of right now, we’re very happy in the Mid-State,” Sears said. “We understand that at some point we may outgrow the conference enrollment-wise, but right now, talent-wise and everything else, we think it’s a great conference for us.
“It’s been a solid conference. A lot of it has to do with the past ADs. They’ve always worked very well together, and we’ve got a relatively new group of ADs who work together and make sure we’re on the same page. The type of schools that we are tends to keep us together.”
Sears said the conference would like to eventually add an eighth school but prefers to take the time necessary to make sure it’s the right fit.
“Right now we’re really solid with our seven, and are happy with what we’ve got,” Sears said.
A benefit to having seven schools is the opportunity for Mid-State Conference football programs to play three nonconference opponents in football as opposed to just two.
Franklin Community joined the Mid-State Conference in 1981. Grizzly Cubs teams had previously been part of the South Central Conference dating back to 1936. They were in the aforementioned Johnson County Conference starting in 1920.
The high school’s present enrollment of 1,615 makes it the fourth-largest school in the Mid-State Conference behind Whiteland, Decatur Central and Plainfield.
“We really like the Mid-State Conference. The schools in the conference are very similar in size and athletic facilities, but also competitively,” Franklin athletics director John Regas said. “It’s really good for us. The Mid-State affords us the opportunity to play like-minded schools that are similar to our size.”
The first Mid-State Conference event of any kind took place May 1, 1942, at Danville High School. Lawrence Central won the boys track and field meet with 54 points and Brownsburg was a distant second with 29.
Greenwood and Plainfield tied for the Mid-State’s initial baseball title later that spring. Plainfield ran the table in six-man football the following fall to secure that championship.
Eleven-man football wouldn’t be introduced in the league until the 1944-45 school year.
Johnson County football programs have either won outright or shared a total of 19 Mid-State Conference crowns. Eleven belong to Greenwood, the first being in 1959 and the most recent in 2012.
Girls athletics were introduced the 1975-76 school year, with Greenwood winning conference in volleyball and Center Grove in track and field. The Trojans took home the first Girls All-Sports Trophy a year later.
As a founding member of the Mid-State Conference, it would be difficult for Greenwood to ever locate what it considered to be greener pastures.
“I don’t foresee that ever happening,” Irwin said. “Even though we’re the smallest school in the conference, for the most part we’ve stayed fairly competitive on all aspects.”
The oldest conferences still active in Indiana high school sports:
North Central Conference;1926
Indianapolis Public Schools;1927
Northern Indiana Athletic Conference;1927
Central Indiana Conference;1932
Porter County Conference;1933
Southern Indiana Athletic Conference;1936
Pocket Athletic Conference;1938
Southwestern Indiana Conference;1939
Western Indiana Conference;1944
Hoosier Athletic Conference;1947
Ohio River Valley Conference;1952
Midwest Athletic Conference;1955
Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference;1956
Greenwood, Mooresville, Decatur Central, Plainfield (joined in 1942); Whiteland (1968); Franklin Community (1981); Martinsville (2005)
Lawrence Central (1942-49)
Center Grove (1956-81)
Beech Grove (1978-2005)
How the Mid-State Conference stacks up by enrollment: