The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Sports

November 26, 2013

Big 12 explores expansion with Peoria schools

NORMAL — A simple conversation about a non-conference basketball game has opened the door on the possible expansion of the Big 12 Conference.

Danville athletics director B.J. Luke and Peoria Richwoods athletics director Todd Hursey were finalizing the details on a Dec. 14 boys basketball contest between the Vikings and the Knights when the conversation turned toward conference affiliation.

“All of the Big 12 Conference athletic directors have been very proactive about wanting to find new members for our league,’’ said Luke, as the Big 12 Conference lost Mattoon to the Apollo Conference at the end of the 2011-12 school year and the league is losing Decatur Eisenhower and Decatur MacArthur to the Central State Conference at the end of this school year. “I just asked Todd if he thought the Peoria schools would be interested in joining the Big 12. He was definitely open to the idea, and that’s when I contacted the president of the Mid-State Conference.’’

On Monday, the athletic directors from the two leagues met at Normal West High School. The Mid-State Conference currently only has four members, Peoria High, Peoria Manual, Peoria Notre Dame and Peoria Richwoods. While the Big 12 Conference is comprised of Bloomington, Champaign Central, Champaign Centennial, Danville, Normal Community, Normal West and Urbana.

“We had a meeting today and it seems like things are moving forward,’’ said Luke during his drive back to Danville. “We’ve had some very positive discussions.

“Right now, the Peoria schools need to take everything that we’ve discussed back to the administrations at their school.’’

According to Luke, if everything goes according to plan, the Big 12 Conference could add the four Peoria schools within the next month.

And how did we get to this point?

In the past five years, the Big 12 Conference has seen its membership dwindle from 10 down to seven with the departures of Mattoon, Decatur Eisenhower and Decatur MacArthur.

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