August 29, 2013

Fisher defends NCC after New Castle’s abrupt departure

by Beau Wicker

— Logansport athletic director Greg Fisher has read the newspaper articles, online comments and other reports being made regarding New Castle’s abrupt departure from the North Central Conference, and he feels the NCC is getting a bad rap in some of the stories.

He said that in fact the NCC tried very hard to keep New Castle, a charter member since 1926, in the tradition-rich conference. But instead New Castle chose to leave for the Hoosier Heritage Conference.

“The bottom line, New Castle opted to leave the North Central Conference and if they believe that is best for their community and athletes, then we wish them the best of luck,” said Fisher, who is serving as the NCC’s president this year.

“Some comments that have been printed are we’ve been vengeful, we don’t care about kids, all we think about is money. That couldn’t be further from the truth.”

NCC expansion

The NCC is expanding next year with the addition of Harrison, Lafayette Jeff and McCutcheon with the idea of having East and West divisions to cut down on current travel costs. Transportation costs and financial issues were the reasons given by New Castle as the primary reasons for looking at another conference.

New Castle would have been in the East division with Anderson, Huntington North, Muncie Central and Richmond if it would have stayed in the NCC, with Huntington North being the only drive over 31 miles in the division.

The NCC still plans to have East and West divisions next year, according to Fisher.

Huntington North will be joining a newly formed conference with schools in the Fort Wayne area at the start of the 2015-16 school year, leaving the NCC with nine schools.

“We’re going to have divisional play next year within the East and West divisions,” Fisher said. “We still think it’s beneficial to all schools to go to divisional play and we are looking at how to best incorporate conference tournament play between divisions. The decision to expand was driven by the fact that divisional play would cut down on transportation for schools.”

Bylaw controversy

Fisher said a lot has been said recently about the NCC’s bylaws and that he wanted to set the record straight. In 2004, he said, the NCC amended its constitution for member schools that wished to leave the NCC.

The amendment included that member schools must serve two school calendar years notice to the conference members to terminate membership. Schedules would remain intact for two years unless mutually agreed otherwise. Members leaving the conference will not be eligible for team championships or individual honors during that two-year period.

New Castle did not give two years notice and as a result would not be eligible for team championships or individual conference awards. The contracts would remain intact for two years unless it was mutually agreed upon to void the contracts.

The NCC administration met in June and discussed this amendment. Huntington North and New Castle wanted the constitution changed to allow their teams to compete for championships and individual honors. They were informed of the process to amend the constitution and a deadline of July 1 was given to the group to present an amendment if they wished and the group would meet later in July to determine if the 2004 amendment would be changed.

On July 16 the NCC administrators met to review and vote on the four amendments that had been proposed.  There was much discussion regarding the amendments and the final amendment agreed upon and passed with an 8-0 vote which read:  “Member schools leaving the conference and serving the two or more years calendar notice will pay $1,000 to each member school. Members leaving the conference serving less than two years calendar notice will pay $2,000 to each member school. The money shall be paid to the Secretary / Treasurer of the NCC by September 1 of that year. The NCC will then pay monies collected to the member schools by October 1 of that year. Schools would be allowed to compete for team championships and individual awards.”

Fisher said this amendment was "basically the same" as New Castle’s, in his opinion. He said New Castle proposed that:

“‘Any parting school be permitted to participate in NCC competition until their departure date and be assessed a penalty for lack of notice that is directed at the school itself. This penalty will be determined by member schools at a date in the near future.’”

Fisher said, “So in effect, the proposal that New Castle made to be allowed to play for team championships and individual awards we felt was fair and quite honestly New Castle agreed to those conditions. 

“The reason for the monetary compensation to the schools is there is a cost to the schools remaining in the NCC.  There are banners to be replaced, signs to be painted, certificates, medals, plaques, awards, all need to be replaced. This compensation would help offset those costs.”

Fisher said the remaining NCC schools left that meeting with the feeling that all parties had agreed to the amendment change and there would be no changes in the upcoming sports schedules for the 2013-14 school year. Then, they received a letter from New Castle stating otherwise.

“New Castle informed the principals and AD’s of their inability to pay the $14,000 required by the amendment to participate in the NCC events during the 2013-14 school year. They also offered some clarification as to their participation in the other NCC events,” Fisher said. “In short, they were not going to pay NCC dues, participate in individual team championships, participate in the NCC sportsmanship conference and planned to honor all contracts in team sports unless mutually agreed upon otherwise.”

As a result of this decision by New Castle, the NCC needed clarification as to the status of NCC contracts with New Castle.

The NCC then requested a meeting with IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox to discuss what to do with current and future NCC contract dates with New Castle. Fisher said it was decided at that meeting the remaining NCC schools would void all future and current contracts with New Castle. Schools wishing to play New Castle as a non-conference school may do so by issuing a new contract dated after the Aug. 23 meeting date.

Fisher said that some NCC schools will play New Castle in sports other than football this school year, but that Logansport will not.

“I met with our coaching staff and it was decided that we would not be playing New Castle in those team sports,” Fisher said. “I notified the New Castle AD and he has informed me he has found games for some of those dates already. We will be looking to replace the dates we had scheduled with New Castle.”

“I have no hard feelings,” Fisher continued. “I hope New Castle moves on and does exceptionally well. That’s their choice.

“[The NCC has] had great competition with New Castle over the years. It was never our hope that New Castle would leave the conference. Decisions were made and unfortunately the NCC was left without an original member. No one feels good about that. We didn’t want that to happen.”

Moving forward

The Greenfield Daily Reporter reported earlier this week that New Castle will compete in individual conference tournaments within the HHC this school year, one year ahead of schedule. New Castle will also compete for team titles in all sports in which it is able to schedule the other HHC squads this school year.

The NCC still plans to expand.

“We think we offer a lot in athletic competition,” Fisher said, “and we look forward to the future with the new members joining us in 2014-15.

"We are excited about the direction we are going."