WCIA — Two premier high school conferences in Central Illinois are teaming in football starting in 2024. The Central Illinois Conference and Heart of Illinois Conference are merging to form the Heart of Central Illinois Conference, forming a 17-team football only super conference.

“It’s a good match-up for all teams involved and we’re excited about it,” Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley head coach Chad Augspurger said.

With St. Teresa and Sullivan leaving the CIC after this school year, the remaining teams in the league were looking for a fit to fill the void. They did just that with the new HCIC. The remaining six teams from the CIC will join the 11 football playing members from the current HOIC. The new conference will be split into two divisions featuring big and small schools. Each division will have at least eight members ,cutting down the amount of non-conference games for each school.

“If anybody decided to leave the rest of us, we’re kinda left out in the cold,” Central A&M football coach Brent Weakly said in an interview on Monday. “In 2023, we have four bye weeks and it’s tough sometimes finding games. In this situation I think we only have to have one.”

“It’s turning into a struggle filling holes in your schedule right now,” Augspurger added. “It’s best all around if we can stay somewhat regional with our schedule there.”

Travel is still one issue that needs to be worked out, with more than two hours between some schools. But the vote was unanimous in both the CIC and HOIC to form the new league, with a chance for top programs to play more often.

“It’s a great conference,” said Augspurger. “Obviously you got Tuscola, Mowequa Central A&M, it’s exciting to get a chance to play them. Especially in a regular season setting like that.”

“That conference is a really good conference, and I think it allows us to know, ‘Hey, we got to really up what we do to make sure we stay successful and keep our program relevant,'” Weakly said.