Mt. Carmel, Ill. -- The Big Eight Conference is losing a member sooner than anticipated.

Mt. Carmel school officials issued a press release on Wednesday stating the school would be removing itself from the conference effective at the end if the current school year.

The release stated Mt. Carmel was voted out as a member of the Big Eight Conference following the 2019-20 school year due to the recent change in the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) for football scheduling.

The IHSA passed a proposal for teams to go to a district format in football which would do away with football conferences starting in the 2021-22 school year. The proposal passed with vote of 324-307 with 69 schools choosing not to vote on the proposal.

Mt. Carmel states with not being a member of the Big Eight after the 2019-20 school year they would only have three guaranteed football contests for the following school year.

“Due to scheduling hardships, Mt. Carmel High School felt it would be in their best interest to pursue other options,” the release states. “When pursuing these options, it became clear finding six, one-year contests was not feasible. However finding opponents willing to schedule Mt. Carmel for two years became a viable option.

“One of the athletic department’s top priorities through this process has been to ensure our student-athletes are afforded the opportunity to play full schedules in the upcoming seasons.”

Mt. Carmel first joined the Big Eight Conference in 2003. In football, they claimed four out-right conference championships (2007, 2011, 2013 and 2016) while sharing the title in 2006 and 2014.

“Mt. Carmel has enjoyed its time as a Big Eight Conference member and looks forward to continued partnerships with the remaining Big Eight schools,” the statement said.

Princeton Community High School Athletic Director Jason Engelbrecht said he understands Mt. Carmel’s decision. Engelbrecht also noted Princeton and Mt. Carmel will play out all of their athletic agreements next school year as well.

“After 16 years of spirited competition, we are saddened to lose Mt. Carmel as a Big Eight Conference member,” the Tigers athletic director said. “The IHSA mandate has necessitated this change. But I am pleased to announce Princeton and Mt. Carmel will continue with currently contracted athletic agreements for the 2019-20 school year...we will evaluate accordingly at the conclusion 2019-20 school year and continue to participate inter-scholastically with one another as respective schedules allow.

“We wish the Golden Aces all the best.”

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