When I started at the Herald-Press, Huntington North High School was a part of the Olympic Athletic Conference. The OAC ranked only behind the legendary North Central Conference in terms of success.
At that time, the OAC was made up of Huntington North, Anderson Highland and Anderson Madison Heights, Jay County, Muncie Southside, Noblesville and crown jewel Carmel. By 1995, six of the eight schools had won state titles in some sport, and produced four state champions in the ’94-95 school year alone.
But several circumstances were threatening to tear the conference apart, including consolidation, travel, and economics.
The story I wrote was one of the more comprehensive I ever put together, talking to all eight schools, either to a principal or athletic director. I also created a graphic to go along with the story, showing the mascots from the league schools pulling apart the conference’s Olympic-ring logo.
My story also made waves around the league. The people I talked with were blunt in their assessments of the conference’s future and made public some previously private open wounds.
In the aftermath of the story, the Olympic Athletic Conference did undergo major changes.
Carmel left in 1996 to join the Metro Indianapolis Conference. Madison Heights closed in 1997 when Anderson schools consolidated.
Instead of breaking up, the OAC doubled down. It added four schools from western Indiana in Brownsburg, Hamilton Southeastern, West Lafayette Harrison and McCutcheon. The result was a robust, 10-team league that was divided into two divisions.
But the problems did not go away. Travel became a huge problem, as busing teams from Connersville or Jay County across the state to the Lafayette area put a strain on students and budgets.
After just three seasons, the four newest western division schools — Harrison, McCutcheon, Brownsburg and Hamilton Southeastern — left to form a new Hoosier Crossroads Conference in 2000, taking longtime OAC member Noblesville with them.
Huntington North left in 2003. Lafayette Jeff had just bailed from the North Central Conference to join the Lafayette schools in the HCC, and Huntington North filled the void.
The Olympic Athletic Conference, once a state powerhouse, hung on with four schools until it dissolved in 2010.
I left the Herald-Press in 2008, but I occasionally wrote stories for the online Indy Sports Legends website. In August of 2013 I tackled conference politics once more, writing about internal bickering threatening the North Central Conference.
New Castle had already left, and Huntington North was on the move again, heading to the newly-formed Northeast Eight Conference, which was rebuilt from the old Northeast Hoosier Conference, The NE8 consisted of Fort Wayne-area schools, with Huntington North currently the largest in enrollment.
The North Central Conference did survive, as they bumped back up to 10 schools in 2014. The merry-go-round continued as the NCC added in three schools from the Hoosier Crossroads Conference in Lafayette Jeff, McCutcheon and Harrison, along with Arsenal Tech in Indianapolis.