Cahokia Conference seeks to expand

The Columbia football team storms its home field prior to a game last fall. (Corey Saathoff photo)

The Cahokia Conference has asked five schools to join for high school athletics, with Roxana and Okawville already accepting the invitation.

The other three schools are believed to be East Alton-Wood River, Chester and Sparta, according to media reports.

Chester confirmed it has received an invite and is expected to vote to accept on June 18.

“Although we are thankful for the past 10 years as members of the Black Diamond Conference, we believe it is now in our students’ best interest to join the Cahokia Conference,” Chester High School issued in a statement Friday night.

The existing Cahokia Conference, which was founded in 1928, includes the Columbia, Freeburg, Breese Central, Wesclin, Carlyle, Dupo, Red Bud, New Athens, Valmeyer, Steeleville, Marissa, Lebanon and Salem high schools.

For football, Dupo competes in the small-school Prairie State Conference and Carlyle is leaving to play eight-man football. Cahokia Conference schools that do not field football teams are New Athens, Valmeyer, Steeleville, Marissa and Lebanon.

The conference is divided into the Mississippi (larger schools) and Kaskaskia (small schools) divisions. The plan is to split the conference into three divisions of 18 total teams. 

Roxana, with an average IHSA student enrollment of 550.5, is expected to be placed in the large-school division along with Columbia (677), Freeburg (647), Breese Central (580) and Salem (691.5).

East Alton-Wood River was expected to vote Tuesday night on its invitation.

“As of January 2020, the member schools hosted discussions related to changes that may include expansion or reduction of the members of the conference,” the Cahokia Conference issued in an official statement. “In an effort to keep the outstanding conference traditions alive and thriving, we have hosted discussions with five area high schools and officially invited them to join the Cahokia Conference. These high schools and their respective boards of education will provide the media with an announcement about their conference affiliation once a final decision has been made.”  

Columbia Athletic Director Scott Horner, who is also the head football coach of the Eagles, declined comment outside of what was shared by the conference.

When asked whether the Mississippi Valley Conference would be affected by the Cahokia Conference expansion, Waterloo Athletic Director Mitch North said “the MVC is set.”

“The only potential changes that ever really looked possible for the MVC would have included larger Cahokia Conference teams and it would appear that the changes in that conference will take away the pressure for any of those bigger schools to need to make a change,” North said. 

Nothing official has been announced, but the Cahokia Conference expansion could take effect in either the 2021-22 or 2022-23 school years.

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Corey Saathoff

Corey is the editor of the Republic-Times. He has worked at the newspaper since 2004, and currently resides in Columbia. He is also the principal singer-songwriter and plays guitar in St. Louis area country-rock band The Trophy Mules.
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