Three schools announced its intentions to join the Chicago Catholic League and East Suburban Catholic Conference for the 2023 fall season on Friday, as St. Francis, IC Catholic Prep and Aurora Central Catholic will leave the Metro Suburban Conference.
The move will give the CCL/ESCC 25 schools and if it remains at that number of membership it will require a division realignment of some sort. The league began with 24 members, in six divisions of four teams each in 2018. Since then, two teams have left the group, as St. Joseph closed at the conclusion of the last school year. Marian Central Catholic recently announced it was leaving the league to become an independent school, but will still play some CCL/ESCC squads, at least in 2022.
The 25-member grouping could lead to the conference going to a five-division alignment, with five schools per division, or possibly trying to add another school or schools to get the league to an even number of members.
That even number is important as it allows for even-handed scheduling and limits league members need to look outside the league for nonconference opponents. This is a persistent problem for CCL/ESCC schools as it is a struggle to find willing opponents outside the conference. In fact, several schools have multiple vacancies on its schedule for the upcoming 2022 season.
While all three of the incoming schools have some links to the CCL/ESCC grouping, St. Francis was a member of the group as recently as 2017. St. Francis left the league a year before the CCL/ESCC was formed, joining the Metro Suburban at that time.
Aurora Central Catholic and IC Catholic have been members of the Metro Suburban since 2014 when the Suburban Christian Conference was discontinued. St. Francis was also a member of that conference and left for the CCL when they were left without a league home.
The trio of teams played in the Suburban Christian from 2009-2014 and the league’s predecessor the Suburban Catholic (that included many of the same teams) back into the 1990′s.
The move leaves the Metro Suburban Conference with nine football playing schools in 2023: Aurora Christian, Bishop McNamara, Elmwood Park, Evergreen Park, Ridgewood, Riverside-Brookfield, St. Edward, Westmont and Wheaton Academy. Westmont’s future is a bit cloudy, however, and has already announced it will play a JV-only schedule in 2022. Christ the King, an independent, will fill many of Westmont’s varsity schedule openings.
If the CCL/ESCC is looking to add membership to get back to an even number, it could make overtures to former members Aurora Christian or Bishop McNamara who left the league in 2018 or Hope Academy, currently an independent who was left out of the original 24-team CCL/ESCC arrangement in 2019, despite previously having been a member of the CCL.