The whispers and complaints behind the backs of Leo athletes and coaches were scarcely heard, but did not need to be to understand the issue some ACAC fans had with the Lions.
There sat Leo, a Class 4A school in a conference dominated with Class 2A and 3A schools. Name the metaphor, big fish in a small pond, too big for their britches, the list could go on and on.
But beginning in the 2014-15 school year, the complainers will get their wish when Leo moves from the ACAC to the new-look NHC.
Of course, the ACAC has added Class 4A Jay County, a school with a bigger enrollment than Leo, to take Leo's place, but that is a story for another time.
As for the Lions, there is excitement and some reservations when it comes to the upcoming move, particularly within the boys' basketball program.
“I have some mixed feelings because I played in the ACAC,” Leo coach Cary Cogdell said. “It is hard to leave, but moving to a new conference with some different schools is always exciting. You get to play in something new and it is a new opportunity for us.”
The Lions and Huntington North will join the six schools that disbanded the NHC earlier this spring, DeKalb, Columbia City, Bellmont, Norwell, East Noble and New Haven.
Leo was a founding member of the original ACAC, with a long history of success in the league. But as the Leo-Cedarville area has expanded and population has grown, the high school has grown along with it. In the most recent IHSAA re-classifications, Leo's enrollment of 932 students surpasses the ACAC's second-biggest school in Heritage by 274 students.
In the revamped NHC, Leo will be the third-smallest school, behind Bellmont (772) and Norwell (810).
“We hear the talk from people, but somebody has to be the big dog in a conference … somebody always has to be the biggest school,” Cogdell said. “Size matters. It's a numbers game and I think anytime you are talking about enrollment it is obvious that the bigger the school, the bigger the talent pool is to choose from.”
There are some though who will be disappointed to see some traditional ACAC rivalries disappear with Leo's departure, Cogdell included.
“The bittersweet thing is some of the traditional rivalries we have had are going away,” Cogdell said. “But things have changed, demographics have changed, so I think it is a good move for us.”
Many in ACAC Country would agree.