Originally Posted Online: April 23, 2013, 1:03 pm
Last Updated: April 23, 2013, 8:33 pm

Mid-West 10 Football Conference inaugural season in jeopardy

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By Daniel Makarewicz, danmak@qconline.com

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
Peoria Notre Dame's Andy Shadid outruns United Township junior lineman Louis Trujillo during a nonconference football game at the Soule Bowl on Sept. 7, 2012. Because of a scheduling snag involving Peoria Manual and Eureka, the newly created Mid-West 10 Football Conference may have its debut pushed back from this season to 2014.

Eight months after it became finalized, the Mid-West 10 Football Conference may have its debut pushed back a year.

The league -- formed after the Western Big 6 absorbed the four remaining Mid-State 6 Conference schools -- has been told that Eureka will not waive its contract with Peoria Manual for a regular-season finale contest this fall. Because of the snag, Manual would be unable to meet Moline in that slot.

If the situation plays out in its current state, the Maroons would have to fill that date.

"Right now, we have no options," Moline athletic director Todd Rosenthal said. "We'll just keep looking."

League officials and Eureka took different stances on the conundrum. Carl Johnson, the WB6 president and United Township principal, said Eureka -- located midway between Peoria and Bloomington -- was informed last August that the new league would eliminate Manual's need to host the second game of the two-year contract. In his opinion, "a year is plenty of time to find a game."

According to Eureka principal Rich Wherley, the school did look for alternatives before concluding it could not find a suitable opponent.

"We have a contract, so we expect they would honor it," Wherley said. "Otherwise, why have a contract?"

When he learned Manual was booked for the regular-season finale, Rosenthal said he searched for a replacement game that Eureka could get as well as one for Moline. Maroa-Forsyth, the reigning Class 1A state champion, was suggested as a contest for Eureka since WB6 administrators thought it would have an opening that week.

Wherley said Eureka never was contacted by Maroa-Forsyth officials. Plus, the school was not on the Illinois High School Association's open-date list as of Tuesday night. Besides the scheduling help, Rosenthal said Manual offered $1,000 to buy out the contract.

"Money can't buy us out of a game," Wherley said. "We're fine playing Manual. They said they wanted out of the contract. You can't just get out of the contract."

Per IHSA bylaws, a contract must be honored unless both parties agree to a resolution. If one cannot be reached, it states IHSA executive director Marty Hickman could decree a settlement. Wherley said the last time he spoke with the IHSA, Hickman agreed with Eureka's stance.

"I thought it was a dead issue until this came up," Wherley said.

The situation -- first reported by The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus via Twitter -- became public on Tuesday.

"It's more than a little frustrating, but it is what it is," Johnson said. "We've got to figure it out."

Big 6 and Mid-State 6 officials hope to have a resolution soon. Mid-State 6 president and Peoria Notre Dame principal Charlie Roy said the league is meeting on Thursday to discuss the issue. Roy hopes the league can write a letter to the IHSA so it "will see things our way" and get the new league started without a hitch. Johnson said the Big 6 will discuss the situation during its regularly scheduled spring meeting next Tuesday in Galesburg.

Asked if the Mid-West 10 may have to push back its debut one season over this, Johnson said, "I hope that's not the case, but you've got to have contingency plans" if the situation cannot be fixed.

"It's too bad we have to discuss it, but we have to," Johnson said, "It's creating hardships for the 10 teams."