This story previously ran on Friday, Aug. 31, 2012:
The Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference has sent "10 or 11" letters of inquiry to high schools in the area about the possibility of joining the powerful athletic league in the near future.
Think of the possibilities: a 16-team superconference made up entirely of large schools from the metropolitan area, plucking the best local programs from Conference Indiana and the Hoosier Crossroads Conference. In Indiana high school sports, this would be the equivalent of a merger between the Southeastern Conference, Big Ten and Big 12 (only it makes sense geographically). Plus Cathedral, playing the role of Notre Dame (without the NBC contract but with more recent success). "There are certainly a lot of schools in our area that would fit the MIC in a lot of ways," said Carmel Principal John Williams, head of the conference this year. Williams said "10 or 11 schools in the Indianapolis doughnut" have been sent letters of inquiry about their interest in joining the MIC, founded in 1996 with Ben Davis, Carmel, Center Grove, Lawrence North, North Central and Warren Central. (Terre Haute North and South joined two years later.) Williams declined to identify the schools that have been contacted, saying he wanted to respect those schools' allegiance to their current conferences. But the wheels are in motion. "We sent the letters this summer and asked for some response," said Williams, of a conference that would include all sports. "Based upon the interest, we'll then move forward with our conversations. We have to have something decided by the first of the year, but there are serious complications when schools change conferences so we really haven't put a deadline or a timeline on it." Entry into the conference requires approval from six of the eight MIC principals. Of note is the inclusion of Cathedral among the schools on the MIC's list. While Cathedral has long been a state power in several sports, including football, it also faces scheduling issues as an independent. Cathedral athletic director Jim McLinn said the school has been interested in joining the MIC for the past decade and sent a letter stating its interest. "We are awaiting their next contact with us," McLinn said. Williams said the principals have not discussed the number of schools it would like to include if the league realigns. One possibility is for a 16-team conference, which would be split into two eight-team divisions for football; the nine-game regular-season schedule would include seven games in the division and two cross-division games. "We haven't discussed the particulars of a 16-team conference or a 10-team conference or whatever number," Williams said. "I can say that we made a decision to send out inquiries to only schools in the Indianapolis area. Part of the reason for that is schools don't want to drive long distances to play games." A realigned MIC would bring the Terre Haute schools' membership into question. Considering gas prices and shrinking school budgets, it would make more sense for the Ben Davis soccer teams to make a 9-mile drive to Pike or 8-mile drive to Brownsburg for a conference game, rather than 73 miles to Terre Haute South. Troy Inman, the principal at Pike, said the school is happy in Conference Indiana, but adds that the MIC "would be a good fit." He is less interested in joining the current MIC, however, since travel to Bloomington North and South and Columbus North for league games would simply be replaced by trips to Terre Haute. Beyond the travel expenses, Inman said late nights on the road coming from Bloomington or Columbus -- particularly weeknights -- are a concern. "We're always looking to cut costs and we play a lot of the MIC schools anyway," Inman said. "But Terre Haute is a long way to travel and we are going to Bloomington as it is now. Getting home at midnight and then getting up a 6 o'clock the next day for school isn't a good idea. I think we're kind of in a wait-and-see mode to see what the MIC principals have to say." Terre Haute South Principal Chris Mauk declined to comment Thursday, saying he wants to hear more at the MIC principals' meeting next month. IPS Superintendent Eugene White has stated that he would like to see Tech join the MIC; IPS athletic director Victor Bush said he has not been contacted by the conference. There is no denying the athletic dominance of the MIC since its inception. Since 1999-2000, the league has claimed all but two of the Class 5A football state titles, five boys basketball titles and a total of 95 of the 247 Class 5A and one-class state titles (38.5 percent). (The MIC does not compete in gymnastics.) But the landscape has also changed since 1996. Suburban schools such as Hamilton Southeastern, Avon, Zionsville and Brownsburg have more than doubled in size in some cases and now have athletic programs that can compete with the top MIC schools. Fishers opened in 2006 and won a state football championship in its fifth season. HSE and Fishers are among the schools to receive interest from the MIC. "To even consider changing conferences is not a simple process and would require much more research, input and anticipation of all the ways such a shift could affect our students, schools and community," Fishers Principal Jason Urban said. Williams is intrigued about the possibilities of MIC expansion. It makes sense in a lot of ways. More competitive games, less travel, natural geographical rivals. "Since the inception of the MIC, a lot of things have changed," Williams said. "Schools have continued to grow and flourish. A lot of them are right here in the immediate area. It's exciting to think about it, but there's still a lot of feedback that we need to gather."