Conferences are like families

By Roger Grossman
News Now Warsaw

Conferences, in some ways, are like families.

No one knows you better than family. They know what makes you tick. They know what you like and don’t like. They know what you are best at and what you aren’t very good at.
That goes for athletic directors, coaches in all sports, players and fans.

That is what makes conference games so much more interesting than most non-conference games. The phrase “familiarity breeds contempt” is very much in play when it comes to conference matchups.

It makes conference games more fun.

Yes, those histories and contempt can occasionally be problematic. Sometimes “knowing people” so well can push emotions over the edge and unfortunate events happen. But those incidents are rare.

All of that is true at every level—high school, college and pro.

But what we have seen with the Three Rivers Conference and Tippecanoe Valley in the past week is the downside of “families.”

Sometimes marriages break apart and even their closest friends and family members say they had no idea there were problems, or they say they didn’t know things were that bad until there was a separation and eventually a divorce.

Other times, everyone can see that the relationship is doomed to fail, and they are hoping beyond all hope that it can be saved.

For Valley and the TRC, the divorce is playing out in a very public way, and it’s very messy.
A week after Tippecanoe Valley announced that it was leaving the only league they’ve ever known for a new and still unnamed conference in August of 2024, the principals from the remaining TRC schools voted to kick them out of the conference at the end of this school year.

Let’s be clear—Valley had control of their exit and the choice they made led to that vote.
But like the line in the famous movie “When Harry Met Sally” when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.

For Valley, they are moving on from the TRC. When that happens, in marriages and in sports, very few secrets are left untold.

And what we are seeing now is the airing out of grievances.

I get it. I have been writing about Valley fans wanting to play in a different conference for years. They wanted more. They wanted bigger. They wanted better.

Now, they have that change on their horizon.

But we are hearing from people who have followed this conference for years say that all the gripes that have come up about Tippecanoe Valley for decades are bubbling to the surface. Things that weren’t big enough to make a big deal about before are now a big deal.

“So what?” you might ask.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter, and it certainly doesn’t change anything. Valley is leaving the TRC, and now they are leaving a year earlier than they had planned.
Coaches of teams at TRC schools have confirmed to me that they are dropping Tippecanoe Valley as an opponent in the future.

I hope, for all our sakes, that there isn’t a massive bridge burning about to take place. I hope that there won’t be a concerted effort by TRC schools to not play Tippecanoe Valley anymore.

Can you imagine Valley not playing Whitko or Manchester? And it would be a total shame for Valley and Rochester to stop playing each other. Those are natural, geographically significant matchups that draw big crowds and bring much-needed money into athletic department budgets.

The most immediate problem for Valley being excommunicated from the conference a year early is the football schedule. Every other team at Valley could find replacements for the TRC schools for the next school year, but football schedules are a totally different thing.

Finding opponents for weeks 1 and 2 are possible, but it may not be exactly who you want to play. Finding teams to play after everyone else starts their conference seasons in
weeks 3 through 9 is going to be really hard to do.

Looking through the John Harrell website, everyone in Indiana has set their schedule for 2023 except for South Bend Riley (week 1 is open) and the schools that haven’t taken the time to send their schedules to John and his staff yet.

The reality is that Valley is probably going to have to travel a long way for games—like Ohio, Michigan and Illinois, I mean.

And there is also the real possibility that Valley won’t be able to fill their entire football schedule. They might have to settle on a seven-game schedule with two bye weeks, for example.

It’s only for one school year, but it’s going to be a hard and painful school year — painful for Valley, and painful for all of us.

After all, breakups are painful.

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Roger Grossman has been covering local sports in Kosciusko County for more than 30 years and is employed with News Now Warsaw. You can reach him at