After a unanimous vote from the participating schools on March 23, the PBL Panthers will now make the move from the SVC to the Illini Prairie Conference in all sports beginning in the 2021-22 school year.
The move comes just after St. Thomas More announced their exit from the Illini Prairie Conference back in January due to the school’s decision to move to eight-man football. Although St. Thomas More will remain apart of the IPC in other sports, the move opened up a slot for a new school to be added to the 10 team conference.
PBL Athletic Director, Brock Niebuhr, said as a staff they saw their opening and decided to look into putting in their application.
“The Illini Prairie went from having 10 football schools to having 9 and were obviously looking to try and fill that schedule for football so they started reaching out to area schools,” he said.
“So, administratively we sat down and had a conversation. The more we started looking into things, we felt like the stability that the Illini Prairie can provide for the long term is something that is really positive for us. So, we sent in an application and today they voted unanimously for PBL to join.”
The Panthers have been a member of the SVC since 1990 and Niebuhr said the school will miss many of the rivalries formed over the years.
“Unfortunately, with this move, we will lose some current conference rivalries but we are also looking to rekindle some old ones,” he said. “Obviously, any time you leave something you’ve been a part of for a long time you’re going to miss some of those relationships. But, at the same time, we are looking forward to a new chapter and going and competing against what many consider to be one of the top conferences in the state.”
The biggest change for PBL will be the size of the competition.
“It’s going to be a lot of schools that are going to be more comparable to us size-wise,” said Niebuhr.
“The set up in the SVC right now is a lot of 1A schools or on the fringe of 2A as far as the four-sport class system goes,” he said.
“The Illini Prairie is going to be more predominately 3A in football, predominately 2A in the four-sport classes. So, from that standpoint, it’s a fit. Obviously, their record speaks for itself. They’ve had a lot of success in a lot of athletic capacities recently and we think we are up to the challenge.”
Most recently this year, the PBL Panthers football team took second in the SVC while the PBL boy’s basketball team were named champions of both the SVC tournament as well as taking the SVC regular-season title. The girl’s basketball team was also named SVC tournament champions.
The ten teams in the IPC are Illinois Valley Central, Unity, Prairie Central, Monticello, St. Joseph Ogden, Bloomington Central Catholic, Pontiac, Stanford Olympia, St. Thomas More and Rantoul.