Pocket Athletic Conference to expand in 2020

Herald File Photo
Southridge, Forest Park and Heritage Hills will be getting some company in the Pocket Athletic Conference beginning in 2020 as Boonville, Mount Vernon, Princeton and Washington will be joining to make it a 13-team conference. This effectively will spell the end for the Big Eight Conference.

From Herald Staff Reports

Shortly after the realignment of the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference (SIAC), another local conference will also be getting reworked in 2020. 

Boonville, Mount Vernon, Princeton and Washington will join local schools Southridge, Forest Park and Heritage Hills in the Pocket Athletic Conference as the PAC expands from nine to 13 teams beginning in 2020. With the move of these four schools to the PAC, this effectively spells the end of the Big Eight Conference following the 2019-20 school year.

"This is something the conference has studied and discussed for about the last year or so," said Southridge athletic director Brett Bardwell. "From the standpoint of the conference, adding the four teams gives us some stability and some security going forwatd that we're always going to have a conference affiliation and won't find ourselves down the road in a difficult situation." 

After Mount Carmel announced it was leaving the Big Eight due to new postseason rules by the Illinois High School Association, the conference was left with just six teams. On May 21, Jasper and Vincennes Lincoln left the Big Eight to join the SIAC which left the remaining four schools to make a decision on where they would go next.

Forest Park athletic director Doug Louden said that after the Golden Aces left the Big Eight, a proposal was in the works to have a merger between the Big Eight and PAC conferences for football only. However, once the Wildcats and Alices went to the SIAC it became clear that something else was going to have to happen.

"It all happened very fast, we had several meetings just to go over a lot of the stuff and then at Tuesday's meeting someone made a motion and it passed," Louden said. "I know the nine PAC athletic directors will have a lot of work on their hands this next school year trying to figure out schedules — there's still a lot of questions that haven't been answered and won't be answered until next school year." 

While the alignments for many of the respective sports haven't yet been decided on, the one question that has been answered is what will happen in football. As of right now, the plan is to have two seperate divisions of six teams each (Tecumseh is independent in football) with the divisions split into a "large school" division and a "small school" division based off of 2019-20 enrollments. This would place Boonville, Washington, Gibson Southern, Princeton, Mount Vernon and Heritage Hills in the "large school" division with Pike Central, Southridge, North Posey, Tell City, South Spencer and Forest Park in the "small school" grouping.

"For us as a smalll 2A school, it will help us tremendously not to have to play the bigger schools such as Gibson Southern and Boonville," Louden said. "I think it'll really help the football program." 

Bardwell added: "You have schools that are at the top size wise and you see a pretty good disparity in enrollment numbers. Sometimes in football games this could lead to blowouts which weren't good for anybody. Football is just a different animal because it's a numbers game." 

There are still a lot of questions to be answered and time will tell what happens with all of the other sports in the PAC. It's safe to say that the next school year will be a rather interesting one. 


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