As was expected when Lincoln and Jasper were accepted into the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference recently, the 2019-20 school year will be the final season for the Big Eight Conference.
The four remaining Big Eight schools — Washington, Princeton, Boonville and Mount Vernon — made it official on Wednesday when they were approved to join the Pocket Athletic Conference.
Both the SIAC and PAC begin their expanded forms of their leagues in the 2020-21 school year.
The Big Eight began to unravel in December when the Illinois High School Association passed a new rule to realign the state's districts for its football playoffs beginning in 2021, essentially ending all conference ties, including Mount Carmel's with the Big Eight. The Golden Aces opted to exit the league in March, though they are still honoring their football contract with Lincoln, Princeton and Mount Vernon this fall.
After talks for all six remaining Big Eight schools to merge with the PAC fell through, Lincoln and Jasper chose to apply for membership to the SIAC. They were voted into league membership on May 20, leaving the fate of the other four schools unknown.
But the PAC approved its four new members on Wednesday, thus putting an end to the Big Eight after it completes its 40th season next school year.
Lincoln principal Steve Combs said in an interview after the Alices were approved by the SIAC that the move was primarily done in the interest of football scheduling. With 10 teams in the conference — Lincoln, Jasper, Castle and Evansville schools Central, North, Harrison, Reitz, Memorial and Mater Dei — all nine of Lincoln's football games are going to be against conference opponents. The downside is that the Alices join a conference that now has six teams with enrollment over 1,100. Jasper was the only Big Eight school with over 1,000, and Lincoln's enrollment is less than 750. It will be the smallest public school in the SIAC, as only Evansville Memorial and Evansville Mater Dei have fewer students.
The PAC now has 12 schools in football (Tecumseh is a non-football member), and is expected to have two six-team divisions. The large school division will consist of Boonville, Washington, Gibson Southern, Princeton, Mount Vernon and Heritage Hills. The small school division would be Pike Central, Southridge, North Posey, Tell City, South Spencer and Forest Park.
The Big Eight Conference was established in 1980 and has produced 17 State Champions, including Lincoln basketball in 1981 and Lincoln baseball in 2002.