SIRR Conference to remain intact

Darren Kinnard
Editor’s note: corrects 11-team, 1-division football set up

A special meeting of superintendents, principals, and athletic directors from the 11 schools in the Southern Illinois River to River Conference has led to the group choosing to move forward together rather than potentially splitting apart.

Last week, discussions of a potential new conference made up of 6-8 of the current SIRR schools came to light, leading to Monday’s meeting.

The conference released this statement via Twitter: “The Southern Illinois River to River Conference met this afternoon to discuss it’s future. After lengthy discussion, it was decided unanimously the eleven schools would continue to move forward to strengthen the competitive relationships that have existed for the past 27 years.”

When Sparta accepted an invitation to join the Cahokia Conference back in June, that left the SIRR with 11 teams, six on the Ohio side and five on the Mississippi side. IHSA rules say a conference must have six teams for the conference champion to receive an automatic berth to the football playoffs. By a 6-5 vote back in July, the SIRR decided to remain at 11 schools, rather than trying to add a 12th school. Mt. Carmel and Breese Mater Dei were likely the only schools potentially available to add. A month later, Mt. Carmel joined the Little Illini Conference.

So what will moving forward with 11 look like for the SIRR? That’s still to be determined, but all indications are it will involve eventually eliminating the two divisions and making one, 11-team conference. In football, an odd number of teams leads to at least one non-conference game every week. An eight-game conference schedule would mean each team would not play two of the other SIRR teams each season. For other sports, the conference schedule would likely mean playing the other 10 teams once in a season instead of the current home and home setup.

Any changes to the SIRR’s configuration are unlikely to be seen for a couple of years due to current game contract obligations. The conference’s athletic directors are scheduled to meet January 6 to start hammering out a framework and a timetable.

The SIRR formed in 1993 when Benton, Harrisburg, Herrin, and West Frankfort left the South Seven to join Anna-Jonesboro, Chester, Du Quoin, Murphysboro, Nashville, Pinckneyville, and Sparta from the Southwest Egyptian Conference. Massac County, who was an independent, also joined to make a 12-team conference. Those teams were divided up into two divisions–the Mississippi and the Ohio. Carterville and Chester effectively switched conferences in 2010 with the Lions leaving the Black Diamond Conference to join the SIRR, and Chester leaving the SIRR to join the BDC.