Whiteland athletics director Ken Sears knows the Mid-State Conference’s newest member isn’t going to be a popular choice with everyone.
Starting the 2018-19 school year, Perry Meridian becomes the league’s largest high school in terms of enrollment based on its 2,298 students during the 2016-17 school year.
This is 418 students more than Whiteland, the Mid-State’s next-largest school, and nearly double Greenwood’s total of 1,216.
Sears feels the good overshadows these numbers.
“There are a lot of positives with Perry Meridian. Geographically, it’s great, and having that eighth team gives us some stability in the conference,” Sears said. “Seven schools is good, but eight is better.
“And the even number helps when scheduling our conference tournaments.”
Greenwood, Mooresville and Plainfield remain as three of the original eight members of the Mid-State Conference, founded in 1942. Eight high schools are former members, with half the defections taking place between 1967-81.
Perry Meridian has been a member of Conference Indiana since that league formed in 1997. The school enjoyed a two-year run in the Central Suburban Conference prior to that.
“Making new schedules is a challenge, but a fun challenge,” Perry Meridian athletic director Doug Schornick said. “You’ve got seven schools to put on your schedule and seven schools to potentially drop.
“But I see this as a good fit for our students. Change is hard, but I think for the most part our people are excited about it.”
Not everybody is. One Mid-State Conference coach, when reached by text message, quickly responded with a “no comment.”
Whether skeptics are upset by Perry Meridian’s enrollment or quality of athletes, one long-tenured Falcons head coach feels it’s unwarranted.
“Whiteland and Franklin are getting bigger every year,” said Mike Armstrong, who has been Perry Meridian’s girls basketball coach since the 1986-87 season. “I would say in two or three years we won’t be the biggest school in the Mid-State Conference.”
The Falcons’ soon-to-be-former league, Conference Indiana, has had 12 different member high schools at one point or another.
Lawrence Central and Pike bolted in 2013 to the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference; Franklin Central plans to leave for the Hoosier Crossroads Conference at the end of the upcoming school year.
In the short term, Perry Meridian remains one of five charter members of Conference Indiana with Bloomington North, Bloomington South, Columbus North and Southport.
“Anytime you do anything new, it’s going to be exciting,” Armstrong said. “I told somebody the other day that Perry Meridian girls basketball has never played Mooresville or Plainfield since I’ve been here. And this is going to be my 32nd season.”
Perry Meridian owns a total of eight team state championships, the first four coming in girls gymnastics between 1978 and 1982. The Falcons girls track and field program won a title in 1988, while wrestling’s three-year reign lasted from 2011-13.
“Having a school like Perry Meridian joining the Mid-State Conference can be good for everybody. They’re going to push everybody to be better,” Franklin athletics director Bill Doty said. “Enrollment really doesn’t scare me much. I have no problem with playing anybody.
“I don’t want our student-athletes at Franklin to worry about how big or how small another school is.”
Greenwood’s enrollment is 53 percent of Perry Meridian’s and 207 students fewer than Mooresville, the league’s next-smallest high school.
“Adding them won’t really change a whole lot,” said Mike Campbell, the football coach and an assistant athletic director at Greenwood. “Football is the sport that’s most affected just by the sheer numbers.
“We know what we’re up against, but for us, even though they’re twice our size, we play them in most sports anyway.”
The Woodmen open the regular season against the Falcons for a fifth consecutive year on Aug. 18 in what will be the inaugural game of Perry Meridian’s new 5,000-seat stadium.
In 2018, the game returns to Greenwood — with conference pride on the line.
The Mid-State Conference lineup beginning in 2018-19, along with the year each joined and 2016-17 enrollment: