It’s been 23 years since Madison High School has fielded a football team and it’s been a five-year struggle for Metro-East Lutheran to keep a team on the field.
The boards of education of each school have approved a two-year co-op agreement that will huddle the student-athletes together in the same uniform beginning in the fall.
“It’s something that’s been in the works for quite a while, since last spring,” said Metro-East Lutheran Athletic Director David Redden. “It will be a huge benefit to both schools. There is still a lot to be decided and discussed, but we think the guys will be energized by the announcement.”
Discussion of such undecided details will begin following next week’s spring break, Redden said. He also said it was likely that Metro-East Lutheran’s Matthew Tschudy would be retained as the head coach.
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Per IHSA rules, since Metro East Lutheran has maintainted its football program, the co-oped team will be based at its Edwardsville facilities and go by the school’s current nickname, the Knights.
“We’ll be the Metro-East Lutheran Knights, but I’m sure we’ll figure some way to have a helmet that represents both schools,” Redden said.
The agreement also combines the schools’ cross-country programs.
Madison last fielded a football team in 1992. It made a state Class 3A playoff appearance in 1987, losing in the first round. The school has a 10-year record of 28-60.
The IHSA has records for Metro-East Lutheran football going back to 1995. The Knights reached the Class 1A playoffs in 2003 and finished with an all-time best 6-4 record. They had a winning record as recently as 2009, but have won just five games combined over the last five seasons.
Injuries took a toll on Metro-East Lutheran’s 15-player roster last fall and forced the Knights to forfeit three games. They lost the four they actually played.
“It’s just been really, really tough,” Redden said. “When you’re losing and it’s spiraling down, it’s tough to get the kids to come out and tough to retain quality coaches. We’ll see what happens, but bringing the two schools together, we think, should reignite some interest and bring some energy back.”
Private schools with enrollments greater than 200 students, under IHSA rules, are not permitted to co-op their athletic programs. Metro-East Lutheran’s current enrollment stands at 199. The agreement will stand for the next two years, however, even if the school tops the 200 student threshold.
The new co-op team will compete in the Prairie State Conference which includes Bunker Hill, Marquette, Mount Olive, Nokomis, Pawnee, South Fork, and Wood River.
Metro-East Lutheran's board made the move official Thursday night by approving the agreement. Members of the Madison School Board voted in favor of it a week earlier.
Details such as hiring a coach and naming the team will be decided after the spring break.