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One of the oldest, most prestigious athletic conferences in Illinois just got even stronger.
In an arrangement discussed for several weeks and which came to a head last Friday, the remaining schools in the Suburban Christian Conference — Aurora Christian, Marian Catholic, Marmion, Montini and St. Francis — have been admitted into the Chicago Catholic League for football and boys soccer.
The contract is set for two academic years beginning in 2014-15. The official announcement, signed by St. Francis athletic director Dan Hardwick and St. Ignatius athletic director Jim Prunty, presidents of their respective conferences, is to be released Tuesday morning.
In a football-driven development the five SCC powers, who have combined for 12 state football titles, were left scrambling after Aurora Central Catholic, Chicago Christian, Guerin Prep, IC Catholic, St. Edward, Walther Lutheran and Wheaton Academy in early May accepted an invitation to join the Metro Suburban Conference beginning with the 2014-15 school year. The SCC five had also considered moving its football programs into the East Suburban Catholic Conference, which extended them invitations after the Metro Suburban announcement.
"They were five schools in need and if they didn't find anybody obviously they'd have a hard time running a conference with five schools in it," Prunty said.
"As I've mentioned before, we're very proud of our league and what it's represented for the past 100 years in developing young men and women and the academic achievement, the mission-based philosophy of our schools and the athletic success they've had," he said.
"We feel it's a very strong conference and to be able to reach out to those five schools and help them out, they picked us up on the invitation and it'll make us even stronger, we think."
Marmion's sister school, Rosary, will remain in the SCC according to athletic director Mary Lou Kunold. Other sports for both boys and girls will remain within the SCC as well, though it's possible some sports such as golf or indoor track may compete in CCL postseason tournaments.
The Chicago Catholic League was founded in October 1912. Its last change was adding St. Joseph out of the East Suburban Catholic Conference in 2010-11.
"I think it's kind of an interesting merger," said Marmion athletic director Joe Chivari.
"Everyone knows the rich history of the Chicago Catholic League — it's over 100 years old, they've got schools that everybody recognizes especially in given sports with football in particular. So to be able to play in that league, I think it adds to the standing of all five of our schools. We're definitely not running away from something, we're running to something better," Chivari said.
For football the CCL will increase to 20 teams from 14, and to four divisions from three. Lake Forest Academy, an Illinois High School Association associate member program in 2012-13, is also entering the CCL.
The SCC teams will mainly remain intact in their own division, the newly created CCL Green. Marian Central, Marmion, St. Francis and four-time defending Class 5A champion Montini will be joined by Fenwick, last year's winner of the CCL White. Aurora Christian, two-time defending Class 2A champion, will compete in the White division with Bishop McNamara, De La Salle, St. Ignatius and St. Laurence.
Each team will play four games within its division, three conference crossovers and nonconference games in Weeks 1-2.
"Obviously, we're very excited about finding ourselves a home for the football season," said Aurora Christian athletic director Dan Beebe. "It'd be very difficult to go with five schools for the football schedule and it'd be next to impossible to go independent."
Divisional alignments for soccer have yet to be determined and will be based on geography and parity.
Meanwhile, there remains the possibility the Suburban Christian Conference would welcome other schools, both private and public, to join. The CCL newcomers also may become permanent football members of the league while keeping its other programs within the SCC, which could make the SCC more attractive to schools not eager to take a weekly pounding in the fall.
"We're trying to keep the SCC together," Beebe said.
"This is still a two-year commitment to them (the CCL)," Chivari said. "We were upfront with the CCL. The SCC is not considering itself dead. We're still hoping over the next two or three years to attract two or three more schools so we could end up having an eight-school conference. And if that doesn't happen, it doesn't happen."