After spending the 5+ days since the SAC’s decision to go back to two divisions, it’s time that I have this talk. Let’s start off with a history lesson. This isn’t the first time the SAC has utilized a 2-Division format for their conference football games. From 1973-1979, the SAC was a 2-Division league in football that composed of the
North Division: Concordia, Bishop Dwenger, North Side, Northrop, and Snider
South Division: Elmhurst, Bishop Luers, South Side, Wayne, and Harding.
During that format, Dwenger took home the North division in 5 of the 7 seasons. 3 of the 7 seasons had co-divisional champions. Dwenger had five division titles, while Northrop came second with two.
In the South division, Bishop Luers took home five division titles with 3 of the 5 coming as co-divisional champions. Surprisingly, Elmhurst (who closed after the 2009-10 school year) had four division titles.
Fast forward over 44 years later, and the SAC is returning to their roots. In case you don’t know what the divisions look like, here they are:
- Bishop Dwenger
- Bishop Luers
- North Side
- South Side
This will begin in the 2023 fall season as schools are already in the works of scheduling their opening week opponents for 2023 and beyond.
Division A will resemble the SAC’s most consistent and stable programs with the likes of Dwenger, Snider, Carroll, and Homestead competing for conference and some postseason championships. Unlike the B division, all of these teams will have at least one potential sectional opponent in that division.
The B Division may leave some fans a little disappointed, but it does benefit most of the schools there. However, I can’t help but wonder how Bishop Luers is going to adjust to this new format since they’ve been use to playing the big schools throughout their existence. The new divisional games will mostly bring a new vibe to SAC action, particularly with the first division. There will still be a Week 7 ”Rivalry Week”, and Week 9 will be a “championship week” where teams from both divisions square off (1-1, 2-2, 3-3, etc). While some may not like how the Week 9 format is used, I do think it is the best way to prepare for the state tournament, while adding something different for the fans and players alike.
As expected, lots of football programs in and out of the area are interested in getting their first taste at playing some SAC opponents. East Noble was the first to make this move official. Last week, East Noble and Snider agreed to a 4-year deal beginning August 25, 2023.
According to Outside the Huddle on Twitter, schools like Warren-Central, Valparaiso, New Haven, and Goshen have looked to add some SAC sauce into their early football schedules. Based on proximity, New Haven and Leo are well overdue for SAC competition since they’re in the same county. I do wonder if we get a rematch between Leo and Bishop Dwenger someday? Those were the days! I kind of like the idea of Warren-Central playing a SAC school.
Now, I do wonder how the interest from out-of-area schools is going to work? Sure, you’ll have the Elkhart and South Bend schools lining up every once in a while, but what about the Indianapolis schools? We know Warren-Central is one of these schools that supposedly was “interested” (take that however you want).
With Carmel and Center Grove going independent, could we see one if not both schools following the hype train? You would have to think Carmel is enticed by this opportunity on some level, especially with the possibility of Homestead (if the logistics pan out). Maybe it sounds too good to happen. What do you think?
What about some old rivals like Lowell? Could you imagine a Lowell-Dwenger regular season game? It’ll probably never happen, but a man can dream.
For the smaller schools, these options may or may not be limited. Eastside, out of the NECC, could be willing to beef up the first couple weeks of the season. Why not a possible Bishop Luers matchup? Again, I don’t know if it’ll happen, but let a man dream. Norwell vs Concordia Week 1 matchup??? Maybe?! South Side might be the hardest because options seem to be limited other than New Haven. I guess Marion could be worth a consideration with them or Wayne.
In terms of northern Indiana, I expect a couple NLC or NIC schools to entertain this option with some of the 4A, 5A or even 6A schools, especially if it’s for North Side and Northrop.
Now, some may ask: where does the NECC fit? Ok, this is where it gets tricky. The NECC likes tradition, and even with a two-division format, most schools do like the idea of playing within the conference. While the NECC gets a lot of hype for basketball, football is not necessarily one of their best strengths. A few others have trophies in honor of their traditional rivals. Several of them may not have the depth or talent to compete with SAC competition. I guess there’s the possibility of Angola playing one of the smaller schools in the SAC, but it’s too early to really speculate on the NECC.
As I conclude this take on the SAC’s new format, I definitely expect the NE8 to be a major contender to take some of these opening week spots, but I’m also looking at Carmel and Center Grove very closely. The NLC, NIC, and Duneland conferences are definitely good schools that could be in line for this new opportunity. And of course, when it comes to high school football, you cannot rule out the Indianapolis area schools, especially the ones that are not afraid for new challenges.
Whenever there’s news on new non-SAC opponents, I will look at it and analyze them. We will continue to wait ever so patiently until the fall of 2023. Until then, we will treat each announcement like it’s a early Christmas present and see how things go. I will talk about these matchups and analyze the direction these schools are going. Until then, I’ll see you next time.