Thirty-seven miles southeast of Terre Haute, Dugger Union High School is going through its fourth consecutive year of independence — meaning no IHSAA or conference affiliation — but recent indications point toward a change in that situation as soon as next year.
“We are planning on joining the IHSAA again,” said Joe Pigg, the former White River Valley girls and boys basketball coach who became Dugger Union’s athletic director and boys basketball coach this year. “We’ve got to have our paperwork in by the end of August.”
In the spring of 2014, the then-IHSAA-affiliated Union High School closed down, along with its elementary school and middle school. Then came the opening of a charter school with the Dugger name on it, consisting of about 250 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, at the same building later that summer.
Fast forward a few years: Dugger Union’s football team went 2-7 in 2016 and 0-10 in 2017 under coach Kyle Foli, its girls basketball team went 14-3 in 2016-17 under the guidance of Anthony McKinney and 4-21 in 2016-17 under previous coach Jim Stringer.
Pigg thinks these last four seasons have gone well for Dugger, but he believes 2018-19 will be time for a change.
“I think the first year [of Dugger being a charter school], it was kind of experimental,” he assessed. “And now it’s really taken off and doing well. The community’s behind it and they’ve got great people running it. You couldn’t ask for better people running it.”
Although Pigg would prefer a return to the IHSAA, it’s not a sure thing.
He said the school has received offers about joining non-IHSAA conferences, particularly for football. One is the Little Okaw Valley Conference (LOVC) based in Illinois. The LOVC appears to be losing schools for upcoming seasons.
“We’re kinda weighing our options,” Pigg mentioned. “That part of it is still kinda up in the air. ... I’d like us to be all IHSAA. That’s what I’m going to shoot for. Our numbers are higher enrollment-wise [about 360] than we have ever been. We’ve been getting a lot of new kids here. We did it with a lot less for many, many years.”
“I like both routes,” McKinney added. “I think we could go either way. Obviously, I’d love to see us get back in a conference. ... It doesn’t matter which one to me.”
Pigg admitted that a drawback of remaining independent and joining a non-high IHSAA conference is the high cost of trips to far-away locations.
Looking at the community, he describes Dugger as “a small town that’s big into its sports.”
“They want the kids to be able to play in the [IHSAA] tournament,” Pigg said. “They will be behind that 100 percent. I have no doubt about it. ... We’re definitely ready for it.”
Pigg does not believe the IHSAA would have a problem with Dugger Union re-joining its organization. The subject is likely to be discussed at the December meeting of the Dugger Union Schools.