Archive for Lafayette Jefferson

DEAN’S LIST: NCC IS FINE WITH EIGHT MEMBERS

THE DEAN’S LIST BY DEAN HOCKNEY

From the December 11, 2012 edition of the Sports Journal

It appears to be official. According to the Lafayette Journal-Courier, the Hoosier Crossroads Conference has officially severed ties with the three Lafayette-area schools – Jefferson, McCutcheon and Harrison. Lafayette joins the ranks of Terre Haute, cities with large schools that have been kicked out of their conferences. It was only weeks ago that the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference told Terre Haute North and South to take a hike (Pike and Lawrence Central took those spots). That is five Class 4A basketball schools that have been left without a conference, and left with little options.

For Terre Haute, logistics is a key issue. There simply are not many large schools in that part of Indiana and the Indianapolis schools didn’t like the long drive to Terre Haute. The same could be said for the Lafayette schools – they are on the western side of Indiana with few big schools in the region.

The MIC is looking at expansion, and that is one of the reasons the Lafayette schools are now on the outside of the HHC. According to the Journal-Courier, Lafayette Jeff Principal Jeff Studebaker was told by the HCC that transportation costs, travel time, differences in school size and competitive balance were also factors in the decision. The rumor mill suggests the MIC wants to become a super-conference and could grab some of the higher profile HCC schools – possibly Fishers, Hamilton Southeastern, Brownsburg, Avon and Noblesville.

Jefferson, McCutcheon and Harrison have asked the North Central Conference to take them in. The NCC will consider its own options in the near future, and expansion has not been ruled out. But is that the right move for the Conference of Champions?

Arguments have been heard in the bleachers for the last few weeks, and here is my opinion: Keep the NCC as is! I don’t see much of an upside to bringing in the three Tippecanoe County schools. An eight team NCC seems about right, especially when it comes to the nine-game football season. And adding Lafayette back into the mix could be the final straw for charter members Richmond and New Castle. It is already a long travel day when they make the trip to Kokomo, Huntington and Logansport. But adding one, or maybe three, Lafayette teams might just break the bank, so to speak.

Remember, the Lafayette schools have not fared well in the HCC, so coming to the less-powerful NCC would mean more wins for the three schools. That is a big upside for them, but not for the conference. If one combines the last six seasons of football, boys basketball and girls hoops, the three Lafayette schools are 440-571 (.435). Only the Jefferson boys and girls basketball teams and the McCutcheon girls hoops program have winning records over the last six seasons. Lafayette Jeff already thumbed its nose at the NCC when it left in 2003, so why bring them back. Harrison is a combined 82-247 in the three sports, so why bring that kind of losing program into the hallowed conference. So that leaves McCutcheon as a viable option. Remember, the NCC by-laws state only one school is allowed from a metropolitan area and I don’t think having three votes from the Lafayette area is fair. So I go back to my original thought – keep the NCC intact. I can find little upside to bringing in any Lafayette schools.

If the NCC really wants to expand, it needs to dip into the Indianapolis market so it can garner more local news coverage on Fox59, WRTV, WTHR and WISH. About the only time an NCC team gets state-wide coverage on the nightly news is when it plays an Indianapolis area team. And bringing in a Lafayette school won’t help since WLFI-TV18 is no longer on Comcast east of Frankfort and Burlington (although I think Logansport still gets the station). If expansion is in the works, maybe the NCC would be better to grab a leftover HCC school like Westfield or Noblesville, and add in Jay County to keep Richmond and New Castle happy.

The NCC was formed in 1926 with Kokomo, Anderson, Lebanon, Logansport, Indianapolis Tech, Muncie, Frankfort, Rochester, New Castle and Richmond as the original 10. Six of those 10 remain as charter members. Lafayette Jeff joined in 1931 after Rochester dropped out and Marion became a member in 1934 to replace Lebanon. Tech left in 1960 (due to an Indianapolis School Board decision) and Frankfort followed them in 1966 due to lower enrollment. There were no further changes in the conference alignment until Jeff left in 2003 and was replaced by Huntington North.

With that kind of stability, why shake up things? Eight is a good number for a conference, and with no obvious upside to expansion, maybe the best thing for the North Central Conference to do is nothing. If the NCC does ask a Lafayette school (or three) to join, I sure hope it isn’t at the expense of losing founding members like Richmond and New Castle. That has to be taken into account, right?

Until next time, remember to keep the man and ship in sports – and I’ll see you at the game.

P.S. And since the Krispy Kreme near State Road 26 and Interstate 65 closed, the Lafayette trip just isn’t the same.

Dean Hockney is the publisher of the Sports Journal of Central Indiana and sports editor of the Kokomo Perspective. His column can be found each week on the last page of the Sports Journal. You can follow Hockney on Twitter (@Sports_Journal) to stay up-to-date on sports happenings in Howard County and around Indiana.

RIVALRY HITS CENTURY MARK

Kokomo and Lafayette Jefferson tip-off for the 100th time in boys high school basketball.

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

LAFAYETTE – In what remains as one of the longest rivalry games in Indiana high school sports, Kokomo and Lafayette Jefferson squared off for the 100th time in 100 years last Saturday evening at the Crawley Athletic Center. And for the 54th time, the Wildkats came out on top of the Bronchos 62-59. But the outcome was not the story as these two teams battled each other in a series that began in Kokomo’s ninth year of playing basketball – the 1911-1912 season.

“It is good to see this rivalry and there have been a lot of battles through the years between Lafayette Jeff and Kokomo,” said Kokomo head coach Brian McCauley after his Kats won on the road. “I remember when Richie Hammel played and led them to the state finals (1992). I know in 1996 we came over here and squeaked one out (54-47) and then they went on to the Final Four.”

McCauley said he was disappointed when the Bronchos chose to leave the North Central Conference and break up what was then a spirited conference rivalry. Jeff left the NCC in the spring of 2003 and joined the Hoosier Crossroads Conference in an effort to save travel expenses and travel time.

“I liked it when Jeff was in the conference – it is a school very similar to Kokomo and the conference demographics,” said McCauley, a former Wildkat player who competed against Jeff when it was still in the NCC. “It was tough to see them get out of the conference. They have a lot of tradition and it is a true rivalry – we are only up eight games. That is what a true rivalry is – when two teams are that close and battle on the floor every time.”

Lafayette Jeff had a strong tie to the North Central Conference, having won 10 basketball titles – its first coming in 1935. They shared the conference title in its final year of play with Kokomo and New Castle. But now, thanks to the end of single-class basketball in Indiana – the Kokomo versus Lafayette Jefferson rivalry has turned from a conference rivalry to a tournament rivalry. Since the start of multi-class basketball, Kokomo and Jeff have squared off six times, with each team winning three contests. The Kats knocked Jeff out of the sectional last year, 68-51.

“Lafayette Jeff is a big sectional rival and there is a very good chance we could face Jeff and Marion later on this year,” said McCauley, whose Kats are ranked No. 5 in Class 4A. “It is going to be tough. I think you can throw rankings out the door. They don’t give you any points when you walk in the gym. What it does do is add a target to your back, which you don’t need in this rivalry.”

As for the 100th meeting between the two teams, Jeff jumped out to an early eight point lead, but the Kats battled and grabbed an 18-16 lead after one quarter – a lead they would not relinquish. Indiana All-Star candidate D.J. Balentine led Kokomo with 24 points, 14 of which came in the first quarter after Jeff started hot. He also had a team-high six assists. LaBradford Sebree added 15 points and Tayler Persons tossed in 12 points – all in the second half.

Rashad Richardson had 23 points and 13 rebounds for Lafayette – and McCauley noted that they will have to play better defense on the Jefferson star if they meet again in March. Until then, McCauley is happy with the way the rivalry series is progressing as the Kats have won five out of the last six meetings after Lafayette had won nine out of 14.

“Since I have arrived at Kokomo, we have been able to turn the tide a little and get some wins after they won a few in a row,” he said. “That is a nice feeling.”