Just a week ago we presented our thoughts on the outlook of the NUIC in our Conference Chatter article. This week we have already received information that has put us closer to what may happen come the start of the 2019 season.
Our first take, the Polo Marcos have announced they will forgo the offer to coop from Milledgeville and move into 8 man football for the 2019 season. While many think this may cause others to follow, which may happen at some point, let's just go team by team and see how the conference will look in a new picture. With Polo gone, this will drop the number of teams to 16.
Our second take, the Warren Warriors have been in serious talk with Blackhawk to join in a coop for the 2019 season. This will need to be finalized no later than November 18th this year, as the WIAA establishes everything for the next season at the state championship weekend. Right now, it looks inevitable that Warren will be joining Blackhawk for 2019. With Warren gone, this will drop the number of teams to 15.
Our third take, it has been quite obvious the Aquin Bulldogs have had a low amount of participants, down to 15-17 kids out this year. Looking forward, Aquin will see a class come in with only 2 boys in it. Our take, once Aquin hires a head coach I would not be surprised to see them also move into 8 man football for the 2019 season. With Aquin gone, we now are down to 14 teams remaining.
The question marks are River Ridge, Orangeville, and AFC. Orangeville looks to be able to sustain 11 man football for at least another 3 seasons, and with some success moving forward this could get other kids to go out as well in the future. River Ridge has had great numbers coming up, and with the current plans in place, although this is a shot in the dark, River Ridge could sustain this for another 3 seasons minimum as well. And we are not to sure on AFC's outlook, as we haven't heard a lot out of the Raider Nation. Let's assume for this piece, at this time they will remain in place for the 2019 season.
Now, if the NUIC keeps the Northwest and Upstate divisions aligned by big and small, here is how the 2 divisions of 7 teams would look based on the 2017 enrollments.
Northwest: Amboy, Dakota, EPC, Du-Pec, West Carroll, Forreston, Galena
Upstate: AFC, River Ridge, Orangeville, Milledgeville, Le-Win, Stockton, East Dubuque
The other option would be to realign under the East and West divisions, and here is how this would look.
West: East Dubuque, West Carroll, Galena, Stockton, River Ridge, EPC, Le-Win
East: Milledgeville, Orangeville, Dakota, Forreston, Du-Pec, Amboy, AFC
As you can see, if they keep the split between big and small, it doesn't really matter as the most dominant team since 2010 still ends up in the small division, but it would reignite an old rivalry matchup between Le-Win, Orangeville, and Stockton.
If you split to an east and west alignment, you get to see rivalries come back to play in Dakota and Orangeville and with Le-Win and Stockton, while also throwing in the remains of the recent rivalry with Dakota and Forreston, and keeping Le-Win united with Galena and East Dubuque, along with Galena regaining their rivalry with Stockton.
In conclusion, if these are how all the teams pan out for 2019, going back to the east and west divisions will be best for the conference. It will bring better football overall, and bring us the best rivalries, some new and some refueling the old ones. Either way, 2018 is going to be a fun year, one last run in the NUIC as we currently know it, and looking to see how 2019 will shape up.
Oh, and don't forget the opportunities of Morrison and Fulton, two teams that have shown interest in the recent past of wanting to join the NUIC. Just sit back and hold on, this could get very intriguing.