The Stateline area lost two boys volleyball programs this past school year, Rockford Lutheran and Rockford Keith, both private schools. The loss of those two programs leaves the Stateline with just eight schools competing in the sport, all members of the NIC 10. Outside of those eight, the nearest IHSA member school with boys volleyball is Huntley (1st year in tournament).
This year Rockford East will host the Sectional that all eight schools will compete in, but the Stateline area loses one of its two regional sites, with only Harlem hosting a site this year.
So why are the programs at Lutheran and Keith having issues with fielding teams? It comes down to the NIC 10 and their choice to sanction boys volleyball as a conference sport, after Belvidere, a co-op team (with Belvidere North) and Hononegah decided to add the sport at the varsity level.
That would leave both Lutheran and Keith out in the ‘cold’ with virtually no options to join a conference. The NIC 10 was more than happy to schedule both schools during the season, but only as a non-conference foe. This meant both would play as independents with no chance to win a conference title or honor players on an all-conference team.
Although not made public by the NIC 10 officials, Lutheran was hoping to come in as an associate member. The Crusaders, along with Jefferson and Guilford, were one of the first schools to field a varsity program in the area. With Freeport declining to start a boys volleyball program, the addition of Lutheran would help solidify the sport in the conference.
After discussing the issue with a RPS 205 AD at the time this took place, the reason for not considering Lutheran as an associate member was because the ‘constitution would not allow it‘. When the AD was asked about co-op teams being able to compete for NIC 10 titles, his reply was:
You did your homework
To the point, the NIC 10 does not want now or ever wants to add another private school as part of the membership in form or any reason and as long as RPS 205 has 40% of the membership vote you won’t see the ‘hand of sportsmanship‘ extended to any private school.
How does Rockford Lutheran school officials feel about this current situation-
Rockford Lutheran Schools Executive Director Don Gillingham:
Too often rule makers create obstacles with in the structure of High School athletics. Of course it is a privilege and we need to have level playing fields, still we need to do all we can to get kids to be active participants. Competition provides invaluable experiences. Sometimes a school district , a conference or a state organization can sap the joy out of the games.
The entire situation is very disappointing, its obvious that the problem is a public vs private school issue, its just not happening in Illinois/Wisconsin stateline area, but it happens across the US everyday. To hide behind a document instead of being truthful on the issue is disappointing. Saying one thing in public, only to say something behind closed doors is not needed and should not be a part of high school sports.
Boys volleyball looked to have been a positive and strong new addition to local schools, but events like this tarnish it for student-athletes who will not have the chance to compete. The loss of these two programs also hurts the eight remaining schools with scheduling and the growth of the sport.
You will notice below that no mention was made about associate or co-op members status as possible members in the NIC 10. Although several co-op teams do participate in NIC 10 championships and have won several since they have been allowed to compete.
Page 2 of the NIC 10 Constitution and Bylaws on Membership at the time boys volleyball was sanctioned:
SECTION 1. This association shall be composed of the high schools of:
- Auburn High School
- Belvidere High School
- Belvidere North High School
- Boylan Catholic High School
- East High School
- Freeport High School
- Guilford High School
- Harlem High School
- Hononegah High School
- Jefferson High School
SECTION 2. Additional schools shall be admitted to membership in the following manner:
a) Membership on a probationary status for a three-year period shall be by a majority vote of the member schools.
b) Admission to full membership shall be by unanimous vote of the other members at the expiration of the probationary status. If the vote is not unanimous, the probationary status may be extended for a period of two years by a majority vote of the other schools.
Admission to full membership at the expiration of the extended probationary period shall be by a three-fourths vote the other member schools.
c) During the period of its probationary membership, a school may be expelled from the association after being given the opportunity to a hearing on the charges brought againstit by a vote of two-thirds of the other member schools.
d) If any member on probationary status shall fail to obtain full membership at the expiration of its probationary period, then said school shall cease to be a member of theassociation at the end of the then current school year.
Side note– not aware of Keith having any interest in being an associate member of the NIC 10 in boys volleyball during the above time period