The soap opera that is the North Central Conference added another dramatic chapter Monday.
New Castle, which was set to leave the conference for the Hoosier Heritage Conference beginning next school year, abruptly left the NCC and will compete as an independent in sports for the 2013-14 season.
New Castle had been a member of the NCC since 1926.
This follows on the heels of a story in the New Castle Courier Times on Sunday that two schools – Muncie Central and Richmond – were threatening to not play New Castle in athletic events this season.
The infighting has grown over the recent bylaws that were adopted by the conference regarding schools exiting the conference. According to the new rules, a school must pay each league member $2,000 if it gives just one year notice of departing the conference, adding up to a $14,000 bill for New Castle, a fee it found excessive and nearly impossible to pay because of budget constraints.
“This whole thing seems to be about how New Castle did not believe the financial burden on them was worth it,” Huntington North Athletic Director Michael Gasaway said. “I guess they decided what was best for them was to go without a conference for a year then join the HCC.”
Gasaway, whose Vikings will leave the NCC after the 2014-15 season for the Northeast Hoosier Conference, confirmed Monday that they will pay a departure fee of $1,000 to each school, as the bylaws state if a school gives two years notice of leaving the conference.
Gasaway did confirm that Huntington North programs are eligible to compete for conference championships and Vikings athletes are able to be named all-conference members over the next two years, something that was in question when the decision was made to depart the NCC in June.
The NCC will add Lafayette Harrison, Lafayette Jefferson and McCutcheon next season to core members Marion, Anderson, Logansport, Kokomo, Richmond and Muncie Central.
While some schools may decide not to compete against New Castle in some sports this season, Huntington North plans to honor its agreements with the Trojans.
“We are not going to opt out of any contracts with New Castle,” Gasaway said. “We are not leaving the NCC on bitter terms and we are not leaving on bitter terms with New Castle.”
While New Castle has had issues with some schools in the NCC since announcing it was leaving the league, Gasaway says the relationship between Huntington North and the rest of the conference's members has not changed.
“In no way have we felt slighted or our relationships changed,” Gasaway said. “The NCC athletic directors have been great to me and our relationship has been very good. They understand we are making a decision based on what is best for our school.”