In the beginning, Terre Haute North and Terre Haute South high schools solved a numerical problem for the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference.
In the end, the schools presented costly travel problems other MIC members couldn’t solve.
Consequently, the Terre Haute schools were removed from the conference by a 6-2 vote during Thursday’s annual meeting of MIC principals, the dissenting votes cast by the Terre Haute schools. They will be replaced by Marion County schools Pike and Lawrence Central.
The change goes into effect in the 2014-15 school year.
Carmel Principal John Williams, who is serving as MIC president for the 2012-13 school year, stressed the vote had nothing to do with the quality of the Terre Haute schools but everything to do with travel and related issues, such as transportation costs and academic concerns.
“The basis for this decision was strictly a location consideration. The Terre Hautes are where they are,” Williams said. “It certainly wasn’t anything the Terre Hautes did. They’ve been great colleagues of the MIC.”
When the conference was formed, the Terre Haute schools also gave the MIC the desired eight members it sought before launching play in 1998. Formed in 1996, only six schools — Center Grove, Ben Davis, Carmel, Lawrence North, North Central and Warren Central — joined the MIC, the so-called “Super Conference,” despite invitations to more than two dozen central Indiana schools.
Center Grove athletics director Jon Zwitt remembers the relief when the MIC welcomed the Terre Haute schools as pioneer members, albeit reluctantly, when fledgling league exhausted all efforts to attract eight members.
“Nobody ever knocked on the door,” Zwitt said of the initial call for membership. “And then all of a sudden in 1997, the Terre Hautes kind of just pitter-pattered at the window and said, ‘How about us?’ We said, ‘Well, we’re still waiting,’ and no one was showing any signs of interest, so we brought them in to give us a seventh and eighth school, because we didn’t want to go with six.
“And here we are 16 years later, and it’s been a good relationship with those two schools. The distance has been difficult.”
The distance issue was so substantial that, when Pike and Lawrence Central expressed a desire to join, the decision to remove the Terre Haute schools was not difficult for the other founding members.
In most cases, round trips to Terre Haute exceed 150 miles for the central Indiana schools, including Center Grove. Besides fuel costs, the long trips pose scheduling challenges and are taxing for student-athletes who, in some cases, don’t arrive home until 11 p.m. on school nights.
In Center Grove’s case, Terre Haute events are scheduled only on weekends.
“When you take a look at how far Terre Haute is and how many trips we have to make, it just made sense for all of our MIC schools to re-look at he situation,” Zwitt said. “When you compare the distance from Center Grove to Pike and Lawrence Central versus the distance to Terre Haute, financially, it make sense.”
In Pike and Lawrence Central, which are leaving Conference Indiana, the MIC adds two members with sterling competitive reputations. The school’s football teams clash tonight in a Class 5A regional, the winner of which will meet the winner of tonight’s Center Grove/Castle game in the Nov. 16 semistate.
Pike and Lawrence Central were among about a dozen central Indiana schools that received letters of interest from the MIC during the spring.
But Williams insists the vote had nothing to with the quality of competition or enhancing the image of the MIC, which has won 11 Class 5A state football championships since 1999 and myriad sectional, regional, semistate and state championships across a wide spectrum of sports.
“(The Terre Haute schools) have been strong competitors and very involved. Our association with them since they joined the MIC has been nothing but positive and upbeat,” Williams said. “I think that’s an important point to stress. It wasn’t anything they did wrong. It was simply location and travel.
“(Travel) is hard to justify when there are schools in our own backyard that are certainly the caliber of schools that we’re looking for. It’s really just that simple.”