Jasper to join SIAC in 2020-21May 21, 2019
By HENDRIX MAGLEY
When the Big Eight Conference announced some changes in March, many wondered what the Jasper athletic program would do next.
On Tuesday afternoon, it was officially announced that the Wildcats along with Big Eight rival Vincennes Lincoln will join the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference (SIAC) effective at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year.
While the Wildcats were grateful to be a member of the Big Eight conference for the past 39 years, the opportunity to join the SIAC was just too good to pass up.
“We felt that when Mount Carmel got out of the Big Eight and made it a six-team conference, it gave us the opportunity to look elsewhere,” Jasper athletic director Brian Lewis said. “The SIAC and their strong tradition was an easy choice for us. The fact that Vincennes is going as well helps us hold on to that rivalry and it makes it so much better.”
The SIAC currently contains eight Evansville-area schools — Castle, Evansville Bosse, Evansville Central, Evansville Harrison, Evansville Mater Dei, Evansville North, Evansville Reitz and Evansville Memorial.
While basketball and baseball scheduling shouldn’t be impacted too much, Jasper’s football schedule has the potential to look completely different. With a total of nine other conference teams to face, this could potentially eliminate rivalry matchups against county foe Southridge and Heritage Hills.
However, there’s still a lot of gray area when it comes to what Jasper’s football schedule may look like down the road.
“I think a lot of things are still up for discussion,” Brian Lewis said. “If you have 10 teams, you’ll traditionally play nine conference games and then your schedule is done. But a lot of those things still have to be worked out yet, this is just the first step.”
Tony Lewis, who will be Jasper’s new head football coach next season, is no stranger to the SIAC. Lewis coached at Reitz from 2008-2012 where he compiled a 53-11 record and a Class 4A state championship in 2009.
What strikes Tony Lewis the most about Jasper’s move is the competition the Wildcats will face on a weekly basis.
“The Big Eight has had some great competition and some great teams but I think overall, most people view the SIAC as a little tougher of a conference,” Tony Lewis said. “Also, the fact that we play a lot of these teams in the sectional will help us prepare for that situation a little better. The SIAC is a very good conference — if you’re not prepared every week, you’re going to get beat.”
Jasper is currently competing against many of the SIAC teams in the postseason tournaments. The football team has been in Class 4A for awhile while the boys and girls basketball teams and baseball team recently moved to Class 4A two seasons ago.
John Goebel, who coached the Cats boys basketball team to a sectional championship in the grouping that was often dubbed “the Evansville Sectional” this past March, is aware that Jasper will be one of the smallest teams in the conference but is excited for the challenges that it shall bring.
“Playing better teams just helps you prepare for the postseason and that’s always been our goal anyway,” said Goebel, whose Wildcats currently had all SIAC teams on their schedule except for Bosse. “Attempting to win the SIAC will be a difficult task but it will help us create new rivalries, that can only be good for the program.”
Goebel is also very familiar with the SIAC — he was the head coach at Mater Dei from 2002 to 2007 where he won four sectional titles, two regional championships, a semistate crown and a Class 3A state championship in 2004.
The last few years, Goebel has noticed that Jasper has started to grow some rivalries with teams such as Evansville North and Evansville Reitz — opponents they’ve faced in the sectional tournament. Now that these teams are conference foes, Goebel believes these matchups will only become more intense.
“Anytime you play a game with any kind of championship meaning to it, it just builds up the intensity of that game,” Goebel said.
This isn’t the first time the Wildcats have been in the SIAC — Jasper officially joined this conference in 1953 and left in 1980 to join the brand new Big Eight conference alongside Tell City and Mount Vernon.
The Big Eight conference was left in doubt after Mount Carmel announced they were leaving the group in March due to new postseason rules by the Illinois High School Association. The remaining four Big Eight conference schools — Boonville, Mount Vernon, Princeton and Washington — haven’t made a concrete decision on what their future will hold.
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