It is a question that has been tossed around all season among those who follow the Summit Athletic Conference.
Is the conference down overall or is it just more competitive?
There are arguments to be made to back both theories, but SAC coaches say their league has become much more balanced than in past years.
“I tell you what, there are more athletes at schools than there has been in the past,” North Side coach Ryan Hall said. “Everyone has guys who have to defend against.”
Elmhurst was nearly always a lock for a victory on everyone's schedule, with Wayne and Concordia the most recent teams that struggled mightily.
Now, every program is a threat each week.
Some of that has to do with continuity. While Kyle Lindsay is in his first season with Bishop Luers, he had been part of the Knights' coaching staff for several years before taking the helm.
Subtract Lindsay from the equation and no other coach in the SAC has been at his school as a head coach for fewer than three seasons.
The elder statesman is Chris Svarczkopf at Bishop Dwenger in his 12th season; the next most tenured coach is Snider's Kurt Tippmann at five years.
“Every team in our league is tough, and we like it that way,” said Tippmann earlier this season. “There is no one you can look past.”
Some think programs can be turned around in a year or two, but coaches need time to install their systems and, more importantly, mold the roster the way they want and demand.
“With the whole Fort Wayne Community Schools turnaround several years ago, you had people moving all over,” Hall said. “Now, coaches have their programs going the way they want them to go, (North Side) included.”
At the two-thirds point to the season, just three SAC schools – Snider, Bishop Dwenger and Wayne – sport winning records.
The conference as a whole has a 4-6 out-of-conference record, which can be taken in different ways.
While the league may have an under-.500 mark outside the conference, consider that the six defeats against the SAC have come to teams with a combined record of 27-9.
A year ago, the league held a 7-9 record in the regular season against nonconference foes.
Perhaps one of the reasons why the SAC appears to be more balanced in terms of on-field results is along the offensive line.
“Coming into the season, everyone was looking for offensive linemen and I don't know where they all are,” Hall said. “Snider usually has big ones that overpower you; Dwenger is usually big up front, but not this year.
“With no one having that dominant offensive line, no one can grind a game out and take over. That is why we are doing OK; we aren't huge but we have playmakers.”
While the SAC can prove how strong it is come the postseason, that isn't as easy as it sounds.
Consider that the eight schools play in a collective total of five sectionals, including three of the top four teams in the current standings – Snider, Wayne and North Side – in the same Sectional 12.
“It would be interesting to see how we would do if we were spread out and play other teams,” Hall said. “Half of the SAC schools are done (in the playoffs) because they get beat by another SAC school.”
In the end, each will have his own opinion on the state of the SAC. But there is no doubt that the league's excitement has increased.
“You used to have the games against teams that really were no threat,” Hall said. “But you don't have that anymore.”