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GTC and NCTL to Merge; Become Big Thumb Conference

In a collaborative effort among twenty-five (25) school districts based in the thumb of Michigan, those districts are proud to announce the formation of a new athletic and activities conference named the Big Thumb Conference. The Big Thumb Conference (BTC) is a merger of the current Greater Thumb Conference (GTC) and the North Central Thumb League (NCTL) and will officially begin play in the 2024-2025 school year. The GTC currently has fourteen member schools while the NCTL has eleven members.
Boards of Education from all member schools recently passed a resolution committing their intent to join the BTC and those schools include: Akron-Fairgrove, Bad Axe, Bay City All-Saints, Brown City, Capac, Caro, Carsonville-Port Sanilac, Caseville, Cass City, Deckerville, Dryden, Harbor Beach, Kingston, Lakers, Marlette, Mayville, Memphis, North Huron, Owendale-Gagetown, Peck, Reese, Sandusky, Ubly, Unionville-Sebewaing, and Vassar.

As the landscape of school enrollment and athletics continues to shift, it became apparent that a customizable mega-conference with a diverse mix of schools would ensure that

schools can complete their scheduling needs, limit travel at the junior high and sub varsity levels, and compete against natural rivalries in competitive, equitable contests. The BTC will allow for flexibility with enrollment changes and present opportunities for realignment among divisions to provide more equitable competition compared to schools having to apply and leave to a new conference. This will also allow for more collaboration among BTC schools for academic based activities such as quiz bowl, academic games, band, choir, and FFA.
The conference will be divided into four divisions for the inaugural school year in the fall of 2024 with the formation of the Red, Blue, Black, and White Division for all non-football related sports. At this time, the Red Division will consist of Akron-Fairgrove, Bay City All-Saints, CPS, Caseville, and Owen-Gage. The Blue Division will consist of Deckerville, Kingston, Mayville, Dryden, Peck, and North Huron. The Black Division will consist of Harbor Beach, Ubly, Sandusky, Marlette, Brown City, Memphis, and Capac. The White Division will consist of Reese, USA, Cass City, Vassar, Lakers, Caro, and Bad Axe.
Football divisions will be formed based on enrollment and will carry over some football-only schools of the current NCTL. Those divisions would consist of the White Division of Bad Axe, Caro, Cass City, Lakers, Sandusky, and Vassar. Black Division of Harbor Beach, Marlette, Memphis, Reese, Ubly, and USA. Blue Division of Atherton, Brown City, Capac, Deckerville, Dryden, Kingston, Mayville, and Oakland Christian. Red Division of Akron-Fairgrove, Ashley, Bay City All-Saints, Carsonville-Port Sanilac, Caseville, North Huron, Merritt Academy, and Peck.
The Big Thumb Conference will also see the selection of a conference commissioner(s) who will assist local athletic directors and be a liaison between schools and take the lead on scheduling contests, procuring and scheduling officials, league promotion, and the seasonal operations of the different sports. The BTC will be posting that job opportunity in the coming weeks.
Talks of a possible merger began back in the winter of 2022 with the formation of an exploratory committee made up of superintendents from each of the two leagues. In the fall of 2022, a bylaws committee was formed of athletic directors and superintendents that discussed and drafted a set of rules and procedures for the league to become a reality.
“To get twenty-five school districts, boards, administrators, staff, and communities to come together for such an undertaking and to do it in just over a year is a reflection of the desire and need to redesign our extracurriculars in the Thumb.” commented Barry Markwart, Superintendent of Mayville Community Schools, and member of the exploratory committee. “This league is set up for success within our communities for years to come.”
Greg Newland, Bad Axe Public Schools Superintendent and member of the exploratory and bylaws committees added, “Moving forward, I am excited about the flexibility the Big Thumb Conference will provide for districts as enrollment changes for all student-athletes in the Thumb. This will help to keep competitive balance and is a win-win for all of our diverse schools.”

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