Officials from the Corn Belt and Okaw Valley Conferences announced the approval of their merger to form the Illini Prairie Conference.

The new conference begins play during the 2017-18 school year and brings together the following high schools Bloomington Central Catholic, Illinois Valley Central, Stanford Olympia, Pontiac and Fairbury Prairie Central from the Corn Belt Conference and Champaign St. Thomas More, Monticello, Rantoul, St. Joseph-Ogden and Tolono Unity from the Okaw Valley Conference.

In February, principals and athletic directors from all 10 schools voted unanimously to explore the creation of a new conference.

The proposal was then taken back to each school’s superintendent and board of education for consideration at their March board meetings.

The boards reached unanimous approvals.

The current presidents of the Corn Belt and Okaw Valley Conferences are excited about both the academic and athletic aspects of the Illini Prairie Conference.

“The new conference is exciting not only from an athletic standpoint, but also from an academic standpoint. Both conferences bring an appreciation of fine arts and professional development for our teachers,” Central Catholic Principal and Corn Belt Conference President Sean Foster said.

“The Illini Prairie Conference offers opportunities for all of our students to excel. It was formed with the goals of strong competition and sportsmanship on the field and strong cooperation and teamwork inside the classroom,” St. Thomas More Principal and Okaw Valley Conference President Ryan Bustle said.

The conference was named after the student bodies of all participating schools chose their favorite conference names and submitted them for consideration by the principals.

Illini Prairie was the unanimous choice.