A few years back, conference realignment in high school athletics became a big deal.

The Northern Indiana Conference swallowed up four of the Northern State Conference teams, while the other four consolidated with some smaller, independent schools to the southwest to form a brand new league.

Carroll and Homestead jumped into the Fort Wayne-based Summit Athletic Conference, and the remaining teams in the conference they left reformed to create the Northeast 8.

It wasn’t long after that that Elkhart Memorial and Elkhart Central came back together as one athletic entity and planted their flag in the NIC, which coincided with Mishawaka moving out of that conference to become the newest member of the eight-school Northern Lakes Conference.

One school that did not change was Tippecanoe Valley.

I think that’s a good thing.

This comes up because about this time every two years, I get wind of smoke from the southwest that some Valley fans are anxious for their teams to move to a different conference. Eventually, one of them reaches out to me to see what I think.

My response is always the same: “Tippecanoe Valley is just fine right where it is.”

I am going to lay out my reasoning for feeling that way, but I want to preface it by saying that I understand why Valley fans might want a fresh start in another conference. I am in no way trying to suggest that Valley is somehow lesser or second-rate. I don’t think that, at all.

But I am going to be honest, Valley is in the best spot possible right now.

Let me walk you through this.  

If Valley was going to change conferences, where would they go?

The primary connection between teams in a conference is geographic. If Valley were to join the NLC, they’d have to travel to Mishawaka, Goshen, Northridge and Concord a lot. While we don’t expect gas prices to stay this high forever, it’s a very real problem for athletic departments to deal with. Valley would be giving up trips to Rochester, Wabash, Manchester and Northfield for those longer bus rides.

And those Elkhart and St. Joe County schools I mentioned are not as likely to travel to Tippecanoe Valley as the Wabash County schools would.

In other words, they’d be paying more and bringing in less. That’s bad business practice.

It’s important to remember that we aren’t just talking about football and basketball in this discussion. Valley in the NLC would mean the tennis teams would be travelling more, baseball and softball—all of the Viking teams would be affected.

On the fields of competition, you’d want to change leagues if you are consistently winning championships in most sports, and if the level of play in your current league is hurting you in the post-season.

You can make a case that last season’s Viking football team was not helped against Mishawaka Marian by the weakness of the current TRC football programs.

But Valley’s title last fall was their first since they shared it Rochester in 2012 and only their fifth since 2004. That’s not domination by anyone’s definition.

Lady Viking Basketball has had a really strong run in recent years, and I think the boys will take a liking to what Joe Luce has to offer to them moving forward. But it’s not like either of them is unbeatable in the TRC.

Ok, “so the NLC isn’t a good fit, Roger, what are their other options?” you are asking.

The travel gets worse for them in Northeast Corner Conference, and what you’d be getting back in return in quality of competition wouldn’t be worth it.

Same thing in the Northeast 8, and those schools are a lot bigger than Valley.

The Central Indiana Conference would be a lot of traveling, but south to places like Blackford and Alexandria.

The Hoosier North would be interesting, except it’s split into northeast and southwestern sections, and while Triton would be close geographically, the league as-a-whole just doesn’t work for Valley.

The Hoosier Plains has soccer, not football and very few of the other sports.

And that’s it.

Now, if the smaller schools of the NIC (Bremen, Jimtown and Glenn, for example) were to break away—then that might be interesting. Maybe LaVille, Triton and Culver decide to pull out of the Hoosier North. If that happened, then maybe Valley and Rochester jump in there to revive a new-look Northern State Conference.

There is no evidence of that being possible.  

Until then, what Valley teams across the board need to do (and I am not suggesting that none of them are doing it already) is to beef up their non-conference game schedules. They need to be playing Columbia City and Warsaw along with other NLC schools like NorthWood and the Elkhart County members.

They will find that those games will make them better for their conference contests and postseasons.

And that’s the whole point of this anyway, right?

So have heart, Valley fans! You have a good relationship with your TRC brethren, and you should continue to foster those relationships. That’s a great thing!

You have a lovely marriage with Three Rivers Conference. Stay committed to that, and don’t let your mind wander.