CHARLESTON - Mattoon and Teutopolis are going to save the Apollo Conference.
With Robinson, Newton and Olney East Richland set to join the Little Illini Conference within the next month, the Apollo needed at least one more football school to stay viable.
Four years after Mattoon's application for membership was rejected and only months after T-Town didn't seem to fit the Apollo's expansion, the two schools have been invited to what would be a seven-member conference starting in 2012-13.
"All right!" Mattoon athletic director David Vieth responded after getting the news of an invitation. "Now, we have to take care of it on our end."
The invitations were a result of a unanimous vote by conference principals - Charleston, Effingham, Mount Zion, Paris and Salem - on Wednesday. Because of the departure of three schools, the principals had to come up with a solution.
""Were in a tough spot," said Charleston assistant principal and boys basketball coach Trevor Doughty, who attended the meeting for principal Diane Hutchins. "Some of the schools wanted Mattoon in the Apollo a few years ago, but some of the schools leaving didn't."
Robinson principal and former Apollo president Troy Hickey indicated his school board wants some scheduling clarifications before making a final decision, but it's likely the change will be approved June 21 at the next board meeting. That would give Robinson enough time to notify the Apollo so it could join the LIC in 2012.
"I don't expect to know exactly who I'm playing, but I want an idea of what the shell schedule would look like."
Just months ago, Hickey headed up the Apollo's attempt at expansion to prevent exactly what is happening, losing teams to other conferences. But because of travel concerns a lot of potential schools were eliminated.
"I am the one that wanted to probe and extend the conference in order to solidify and then this opportunity came along for us three to evaluate," Hickey said.
Teutopolis' superintendent Dan Niemerg said he knew the offer was coming and plans to add football would be several years down the line. But he does know there's plenty of community support.
"There's rumors that might be a way to get it started," Niemerg said about using community fundraising to add football. "I wouldn't be surprised if the ball got rolling because once it gets started it pays for itself."
Snags could still arise in these conference changes and others might also eventually be invited to add stability to the Apollo, which for years has faced possibilities of such an exodus.
"There are all kinds of names floating around," Doughty said. "Breese Mater Dei wants in. The problem is the distance. There are rumors that Centralia wants in. We've also heard the Big 12 wants to expand and add some Apollo schools. But those are all rumors."
Vieth's initial reaction was not opposed to joining a conference also adding Breese Mater Dei.
"Breese would be just a little bit farther than Normal," Vieth said. "That's one (long) trip compared to four, if you include Danville (with Normal, Normal West and Bloomington)."
While Mattoon has generally seemed in favor of going from the school with the smallest enrollment in the Big 12 Conference to the largest in the Apollo, its move still depends on school board approval.
So, steps still remain.
"No. 1, it's getting the invitation from the Apollo and then as an administration team it's giving information to the school board," Vieth said. "You present information and then the next meeting they may take action.
"It's exciting. A lot of things are going to unfold with what other schools are involved."