In late March, the South Seven Conference schools voted not to allow Granite City membership in the league.
The conference will remain at six schools for the time being. The vote was 3-3, but conference bylaws indicate that a majority must be in favor for a move to happen.
"I've thinking over this for months, and there were too many roadblocks," said Marion athletic director Ryan Goodisky. "As far as football, if you go to seven teams, you're going to have a hole in the middle of your schedule."
Having an odd number of teams would mean one school would have a bye week during the conference schedule. Trying to find another opponent during that off week would have been very difficult.
"It literally took me two years to find our Week 1 opponent for this year, which is the Rochelle game," Goodisky said. "If it's that hard to find games for a Week 1, 2 or 9, I can't imagine trying to find a game in Weeks 4, 5 or 6."
Goodisky also pointed out that Granite City would have given some of the schools another long trip to the metro east, which would cut into school time for students.
Granite City also has enrollment of more than 1,800 students, which is more than double a majority of schools in the league and about 700 students more than Marion and Mount Vernon.
"The scariest thing in all this is that right now they are at 1,800, but they're getting ready to bring back several hundred steel jobs up there," Goodisky said. "There is potential where their enrollment could grow even more where they're creeping over 2,000 kids. For us at Marion, I just knew it wasn't a good fit."
Carbondale's athletic director, Mark Albertini, said that the board of education at each school had the final say on the matter.
"If the South Seven was going to have eight teams it probably would have been better for football scheduling," Albertini said. "With other sports, it probably wouldn't have been an issue with seven teams."
Albertini declined to say on the record which schools voted for and against the inclusion of Granite City.
The boys basketball program has struggled at Granite City since the mid-1990s.
"Yeah, they are down in most sports across the board," Goodisky said. "But I'm a believer, after what our boys basketball team did this year, that it takes one guy to change everything. If you get the right coach and get the kids out, that stuff can change overnight."
Goodisky said the Marion school board fully supported his decision to vote against the move.
Mount Vernon is the biggest school in the conference with an enrollment of 1,190, and Marion is second at 1,083. Carbondale is third with 988 students.
Cahokia has an enrollment of 928, and Centralia is at 911. Althoff Catholic has an actual enrollment of 384, but it's 633 with a multiplier.
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