The Chicago Catholic League and East Suburban Catholic will merge for football in 2019. The leagues announced the move on Thursday.
The move was passed after a unanimous vote by principals from both leagues.
Fenwick principal Peter Groom acknowledged that football scheduling difficulties were a driving factor in the decision.
“Football is just different because not everybody makes the playoffs,” Groom said. “The parity model we have in the Catholic league has really worked for us. The more schools you have involved with that the better.”
A committee of athletic directors from each conference agreed on a formula to determine divisional placement of each school. Factors included male enrollment, football participation numbers and success during the 2017 and 2018 season.
The conference is expected to have six divisions of four teams. Each team would play three conference games, four crossover games and two non conference games.
Groom said that a name for the new conference has yet to be determined.
“We did not want to get bogged down in a name and prevent this from happening,” Groom said. “Each conference has a deep history and tradition and I could have seen that as a point of tension.”
The new conference omits Hope Academy, which was only a Catholic League member for football. That means the new conference will have 14 members from the Catholic League and 10 from the East Suburban Catholic.
“We really wanted to make it happen so we focused on the schools that are full members of both leagues,” Groom said. “We would definitely be open to other schools and the possibility of expanding in the future.
Some coaches believe the football merger is the first step towards a merger for more sports.
“We’ve agreed to continue discussions about other sports,” Groom said. “We will see how this goes and see where the future takes us. We want to take baby steps.”
The “super Catholic conference” has been tried before. The two leagues merged together from 1996 to 2002 as the Catholic Metropolitan Conference.
Reaction from athletes around the area so far has been positive.
So what do you think, is the Chicago Catholic League/East Suburban Catholic Conference merger a good idea?
— Michael O'Brien (@michaelsobrien) October 4, 2018
“A lot of the schools were very close to one another but in different conferences,” Groom said. “Those kids have gone to school together in the past and want to play each other. Hopefully there are some new rivalries that develop.”
Chicago Catholic League schools
De La Salle
East Suburban Catholic schools