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home : local sports : local sports

8/30/2013 10:00:00 AM Email this articlePrint this article 
For What it's worth
Is it time for Indians and Salukis to become Oilers?

By Bill Richardson

There are 440 Indians in the United States, but only one Salukis.

So says highschoolnicknames.homestead.com, a web site that lists the nicknames of teams for nearly every high school in the United States.

There are also 12 Oilers. Maybe someday soon that number will grow to a baker's dozen. More later.

Research shows that Lawrenceville's teams weren't originally named after a tribe of Indians, but rather for the old Indian Refinery. According to one source, the Indian Refinery provided good jobs for our town from 1907 - about the time Lawrenceville began fielding high school teams - until 1985.

The story of the Saluki name in western Lawrence County is much more certain. Sumner's Arabs and Bridgeport's Bulldogs went out of business after the 1973 school year, forming a new school corporation the following fall.

Legend has it that the initial plan was to name the school Red Hills, but an obscure Illinois law makes it illegal to name a high school after a state park. So Red Hill it was, not technically after the state park.

A reliable source tells me that students at Red Hill were charged with choosing a nickname, with Bulldogs and Arabs both being ruled out.

The solution was a sort of combination of the two. After all, a Saluki is an Arabic dog. The nickname is even more fitting with the Southern Illinois region being universally known as Little Egypt.

Perhaps it's wishful thinking, but maybe some day soon there were only 439 Indians and no more Salukis with one more Oilers.

Lawrenceville and Red Hill already have a cooperative agreement - under the LHS flag - for both cross country and wrestling. Success in those sports has generally been better than in others in recent years and scuttlebutt has it that there have been discussions about competing as one in more sports, perhaps all sports, in the very near future.

Most coaches at both schools seem to favor such an idea. Most suggest - some even insist - that such a plan is the only way our teams will be competitive in the ever-changing Little Illini Conference.

For a model we have to look no further than to neighboring Crawford County, where Palestine and Hutsonville have been competing as one since the fall of 2002. The football, girls basketball and track teams wear Palestine uniforms. Hutsonville hosts the volleyball, boys basketball, baseball and softball teams.

The schools also have a cooperative agreement at the junior high school level, with the exception of boys basketball.

Taking things a step further, is it far-fetched to think that our county will have but one school corporation down the road? Wouldn't there be benefits to consolidation?

Fielding better sports teams really has nothing to do with it. Certainly the logistics of such a move could be worked out, and it's possible a savings to the taxpayers and a better education for our young people would be the net result.

In that instance we'd need a new name, and Oilers has been floated. Would there be a more appropriate way to honor the heritage of our county? Aside from Lawrenceville's four Class A state basketball championships and Bridgeport's runnerup finish during the one-class era, what is Lawrence County better known for than oil?

The nickname would be fairly unique, as we'd be the only Oilers in the Land of Lincoln aside from East Alton-Wood River.

It's said the hardest thing to kill is a school mascot. But think how great our new one - wearing a hard hat and perhaps lugging a pipe wrench - would look.

Maybe it's time for Lawrence County to do what the Beatles suggested way back in 1969. Maybe it's time we come together.


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