Chicago Catholic League

Chicago Catholic League

The Chicago Catholic League (CCL) is a high school athletic conference based in Chicago, Illinois, USA. All of the schools are currently part of the Illinois High School Association, the governing body for Illinois scholastic sports. While some of the schools are coeducational institutions, the conference only supports athletics for male teams (the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference serving as its female counterpart).

The CCL is perhaps best known for its dominance in football, water polo, and wrestling. Since the IHSA began a state football tournament in 1974, the CCL has placed first or second more than any conference or league in the state. Since 2002 when the IHSA first sponsored a state tournament in water polo, the CCL has not failed to win the state title for boys. Since 1984, when the IHSA moved to a dual team state series in wrestling (previously, the team champion was based on the advancement of individuals in the individual state tournament), the CCL has also finished first or second more than any conference or league.

The conference is also noteworthy for some of its alumni which include stars of the past like Cy Young Award winning pitcher Denny McLain and Basketball Hall of Fame member Moose Krause. It also includes more contemporary athletes such as NBA star Corey Maggette and All-Pro quarterback Donovan McNabb. Perhaps the conference's most accomplished alum is Duke University men's basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski.


Member schools

School Town Team Name Colors IHSA Classes 2/3/4 Reference
Bishop McNamara High School Kankakee Fighting Irish           A/1A/2A [1]
Brother Rice High School Chicago Crusaders           AA/3A/4A [2]
De La Salle Institute Chicago Meteors           AA/3A/4A [3]
Fenwick High School Oak Park Friars           AA/3A/4A [4]
Gordon Technical High School Chicago Rams           AA/2A/3A [5]
Hales Franciscan High School Chicago Spartans           A/1A/2A [6]
Leo Catholic High School Chicago Lions           A/1A/2A [7]
Loyola Academy Wilmette Ramblers           AA/3A/4A [8]
Mt. Carmel High School Chicago Caravan           AA/3A/4A [9]
Providence Catholic High School New Lenox Celtics           AA/3A/4A [10]
Seton Academy South Holland Sting                A/1A/2A [11]
St. Ignatius College Prep Chicago Wolfpack           AA/3A/4A [12]
St. Laurence High School Burbank Vikings           AA/3A/4A [13]
St. Rita of Cascia High School Chicago Mustangs           AA/3A/4A [14]

St. Joseph High School is slated to join in 2011. Lake Forest Academy is slated to compete in the conference for football only in 2011.St.Viator High School joined in 2010 to competete in the conference for lacrosse. Additionally, St. Patrick High School, Notre Dame High School, and Marist High School participate in the conference for Boys Bowling.

For those schools which are coed, most of the girls teams compete in the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference. The girls teams from Bishop McNamara, Fenwick, and Providence compete in the East Suburban Catholic Conference.


The Chicago Catholic League was formed in 1912 as a way to give the all-male Catholic schools of the area interscholastic competition.[15] The move to form the league was precipitated when the dominant high school league in the metropolitan area, the Cook County High School League, delayed the application of St. Ignatius Academy and DePaul Academy.[15] Representatives of eight schools met at the Great Northern Hotel—De Paul Academy, St Ignatius Academy, St Rita College, St. Cyril College (which would become Mount Carmel High School), Cathedral High, St. Philip High, Loyola Academy, and De La Salle Institute — but could not get together on the particulars to form a football–only league.

In the third week of November, the schools managed to form a league and drew up a schedule of games in basketball and indoor baseball. The founding members of the league were St. Stanislaus, De la Salle, De Paul, St. Ignatius, St. Cyril, St. Philip, Loyola, and Cathedral. By the spring when a baseball schedule was drawn up, Holy Trinity had joined the league, but Cathedral dropped out, leaving an eight-team circuit. In the fall of 1913, the league introduced football. By the following year, league champion De Paul, felt feisty enough to invite St. John’s Preparatory from Danvers, Massachusetts, to Chicago to engage in an intersectional contest. De Paul narrowly lost the game, but it demonstrated to the league that its program was thriving. Two years later De Paul traveled to Boston and met Beverly High in Fenway Park, destroying the team 30-7. More schools joined the circuit before the decade was up, St. Patrick in 1913, and St. Mel in 1918.

Because the Catholic school population relative to the mainstream public secondary schools and the private school was more an immigrant and working class population, the sports that the league initially sponsored reflected this demographic makeup. For example, during the first four years of the league’s existence, only baseball, basketball, indoor baseball, and football were offered. Basketball was the most robust sport, as the league not only provided for heavyweight and lightweight schedules, but also bantamweight (added in 1919) and flyweight competition (added in the early 1920s). The Chicago Public High School League and Suburban League offered basketball only in the heavyweight and lightweight classes, after experimenting only a few years with a bantamweight class.

The Catholic League added track and field in 1917, but it was not until 1924 that three “country club” sports were added to the league’s schedule golf, tennis, and swimming. The addition of these sports brought the league up to the level of offerings by the Chicago and Suburban public leagues. The 1920s also saw the addition of more schools to the league—St. George, Joliet De la Salle, and Fenwick.

Some working class sports that had great appeal in some Catholic schools were boxing and bowling, and the league sponsored competition for a few years during the Depression in boxing, and much longer in bowling.

By the late 1950s some of the Catholic League members were growing restive, wanting to participate in the state tournaments sponsored by the Illinois High School Association (IHSA). In February four rebellious Christian Brothers schools—St. Mel, St. George, De La Salle, and St. Patrick—withdrew from the Catholic League, set up their own league, and joined the IHSA the following year. In 1965, the Jesuit school, St. Ignatius, also left the league to join the four the league set up by the Christian Brothers schools.

The Catholic League finally joined the IHSA in 1974, and eventually saw the return of St. Ignatius, St. Patrick, and De La Salle back into the league. Because of their membership in the IHSA, the 29 year old tradition of a Catholic League All-Star basketball game was forced to end in 1974.[16]

Past members

  • (Defunct) Archbishop Weber High School Red Horde
  • (Defunct) St. Martin de Porres Academy Silver Eagles
  • (Defunct) St. George Dragons
  • (Defunct) Mendel Catholic Monarchs
  • (Defunct) DePaul Academy Blue Demons
  • (Defunct) St. Mel Knights
  • (Defunct) St. Philip Gaels
  • St. Francis De Sales Pioneers
  • Guerin College Preparatory High School Gators
  • Joliet Catholic Hilltoppers
  • St. Patrick Shamrocks

State championships


State Champions[17]

  • 1975–76 • Brother Rice (Class AA)
  • 1977–78 • Providence Catholic (Class A)
  • 1981–82 • Providence Catholic (Class A)


Prior to the 2007-2008 season, the state basketball title was contested in two classes. Since then, it is contested in four classes.

State Champions[18]

  • 1978–79 • Providence Catholic (Class A)
  • 1984–85 • Providence-St. Mel (Class A)
  • 1984–85 • Mount Carmel (Class AA)
  • 2002–03 • Hales Franciscan (Class A)
  • 2003–04 • Leo (Class A)
  • 2008–09 • Seton Academy (Class AA)

The 2004–05 Class A title was stripped from Hales Franciscan after it was determined that the school had not been approved by the Illinois State Board of Education between 2003 and 2005.[19][20]


The Chicago Catholic League is divided into Blue and a White divisions. The Blue includes Brother Rice, Loyola, Mount Carmel, St. Rita, Fenwick and Providence. The White includes DeLaSalle, St. Ignatius, Bishop McNamara, (Burbank) St. Laurence, Gordon Tech, Seton Academy, Hales Franciscan, and Leo.

From 1980–2000, Class 6A was the largest (by school population) class in Illinois high school football. Class 7A and 8A were added in 2001. From 1974–79, Class 5A was the class for the largest schools.[21]

State Champions[21]

  • 1976–77 • St. Laurence (Class 5A)
  • 1978–79 • St. Rita (Class 5A)
  • 1980–81 • Gordon Tech (Class 6A)
  • 1980–81 • Mt. Carmel (Class 5A)
  • 1981–82 • Brother Rice (Class 6A)
  • 1982–83 • Bishop McNamara (Class 3A)
  • 1985–86 • Bishop McNamara (Class 3A)
  • 1986–87 • Bishop McNamara (Class 3A)
  • 1987–88 • Providence Catholic (Class 4A)
  • 1987–88 • Bishop McNamara (Class 3A)
  • 1988–89 • Mt. Carmel (Class 6A)
  • 1989–90 • Mt. Carmel (Class 5A)
  • 1990–91 • Mt. Carmel (Class 5A)
  • 1991–92 • Mt. Carmel (Class 5A)
  • 1991–92 • Providence Catholic (Class 4A)
  • 1993–94 • Loyola Academy (Class 6A)
  • 1994–95 • Providence Catholic (Class 5A)
  • 1995–96 • Providence Catholic (Class 4A)
  • 1996–97 • Mt. Carmel (Class 5A)
  • 1996–97 • Providence Catholic (Class 4A)
  • 1997–98 • Providence Catholic (Class 4A)
  • 1998–99 • Mt. Carmel (Class 5A)
  • 1999–2000 • Mt. Carmel (Class 5A)
  • 2000–01 • Mt. Carmel (Class 5A)
  • 2001–02 • Providence Catholic (Class 6A)
  • 2002–03 • Mt. Carmel (Class 6A)
  • 2002–03 • Providence Catholic (Class 5A)
  • 2004–05 • Providence Catholic (Class 6A)
  • 2006–07 • St. Rita (Class 7A)

Prep Bowl

The Prep Bowl is an annual contest played between the Chicago Catholic League and the Chicago Public League and is played at Chicago's Soldier Field. It was first played in 1927, though after a forfeit in 1928, was not played again until 1934, and was the premier high school football event in Illinois until the IHSA formed the state championship football playoffs in 1974. The 1927 game between Mt. Carmel and Carl Schurz High School drew an estimated 50,000 fans; the largest crowd to see a prep football contest in American history, up to that time.[22] In subsequent years, larger crowds were drawn to the annual game.

With the advent of the IHSA state series, the Prep Bowl was contested by the winner of a special playoff in each league played by teams not qualifying for the state playoffs, and teams that were eliminated in early rounds of the state playoffs. It is traditionally played on the Friday after Thanksgiving, which is the same day which the IHSA plays its smaller school state championships in football. As of the 2009 game, the Catholic League holds a 51-23-2 advantage in the series.

In 1981, the IHSA membership voted on a limitation that prohibited member schools from participating in more than nine games, plus the IHSA state series. The Prep Bowl was given a special exemption from this.[23]


State Champions[25]

  • 1986–87 • Loyola Academy (Class AA)
  • 1992–93 • Bishop McNamara (Class A)
  • 1996–97 • Loyola Academy (Class AA)
  • 2000–01 • Loyola Academy (Class AA)
  • 2000–01 • Bishop McNamara (Class A)
  • 2001–02 • Loyola Academy (Class AA)

Swimming and diving

State Champions[26]

  • 1989–90 • Fenwick
  • 1990–91 • Fenwick
  • 1991–92 • Fenwick

Track and field

State Champions[27]

  • 1980–81 • Leo (Class A)
  • 1994–95 • Leo (Class AA)
  • 1997–98 • Leo (Class A Co-Champions)
  • 2001–02 • Leo (Class A)
  • 2002–03 • Leo (Class A)

Water Polo

The IHSA began a state series in water polo with the 2001–02 school year. Prior to that, a high school state championship was sponsored by Illinois Water Polo.
State Champions[28]
ISA State Champions [29]

  • 1974 • Fenwick
  • 1975 • Mount Carmel
  • 1976 • Fenwick
  • 1977 • Fenwick
  • 1978 • Loyola
  • 1980 • Brother Rice
  • 1981 • Brother Rice
  • 1982 • Brother Rice
  • 1983 • Brother Rice
  • 1984 • Brother Rice
  • 1985 • Brother Rice
  • 1986 • Brother Rice
  • 1987 • St. Laurence
  • 1988 • Brother Rice
  • 1989 • Brother Rice
  • 1990 • Fenwick
  • 1991 • Fenwick
  • 1992 • Fenwick
  • 1993 • Fenwick
  • 1994 • Brother Rice
  • 1995 • Brother Rice
  • 1996 • Brother Rice
  • 1998 • Brother Rice
  • 1999 • Fenwick
  • 2000 • Fenwick

IHSA State Champions

  • 2001–02 • Fenwick
  • 2002–03 • Brother Rice
  • 2003–04 • Fenwick
  • 2004–05 • Fenwick
  • 2005–06 • Fenwick
  • 2006–07 • Fenwick
  • 2007–08 • Fenwick
  • 2008–09 • Fenwick


State Champions[30]

  • 1977–78 • Providence Catholic (Class A)
  • 1980–81 • Providence Catholic (Class A)
  • 1987–88 • Providence Catholic (Class AA)
  • 1988–89 • Providence Catholic (Class AA)
  • 1989–90 • St. Laurence (Class AA)
  • 1991–92 • Mount Carmel (Class AA)
  • 1992–93 • Mount Carmel (Class AA)
  • 1993–94 • Mount Carmel (Class AA)
  • 1996–97 • Providence Catholic (Class AA)
  • 1997–98 • Providence Catholic (Class AA)
  • 1998–99 • Providence Catholic (Class AA)
  • 1999–2000 • Providence Catholic (Class AA)
  • 2000–01 • Providence Catholic (Class AA)
  • 2001–02 • Providence Catholic (Class AA)
  • 2002–03 • St. Rita (Class AA)
  • 2003–04 • St. Rita (Class AA)

Notable alumni

Bishop McNamara

Brother Rice


DePaul Academy


Gordon Tech

Hales Franciscan

Holy Cross


Loyola Academy

Mount Carmel

St. George

St. Ignatius

  • Tom O'Hara - Olympian and former world record holder for indoor mile and NCAA Champion in Division I cross country.

St. Laurence

St. Mel

St. Rita

  • Chuck Brodnicki - Played RB for the Brooklyn Dodgers
  • Dennis Lick - Former Chicago Bears OL.
  • Tony Simmons - Former NFL wide receiver
  • Ahmad Merritt - NFL wide receiver (Arizona Cardinals), former Chicago Bears and Chicago Rush (Arena League) player
  • Ed Farmer - Former MLB pitcher and current play-by-play voice of the Chicago White Sox
  • Tom Flaherty - Played MLB for the Cincinnati Bengals
  • Nick Etten - Former MLB All-Star first baseman
  • Jim Clancy - Former MLB All-Star pitcher
  • Ron Weissenhofer - Played LB for the New Orleans Saints
  • Bob Zimny - Played tackle for the Chicago Cardinals
  • Mike Kafka - quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles
  • Ryan Donahue- kicker for the Detroit Lions

Providence Catholic

  • Pete Bercich NFL Linebacker (1995–98, 2000) Minnesota Vikings.
  • Brad Guzan is a goalkeeper who has played for Chivas USA, the US National Team, and for Aston Villa of the English Premier League. Starting goalkeeper for the 2008 U.S. Olympic team.
  • Carmen Pignatiello is a Major League Baseball pitcher who has pitched for the Chicago Cubs (2008)
  • Bryan Rekar was a Major League Baseball pitcher (1995–2002).
  • Eric Steinbach - NFL Offensive lineman



  1. ^ "Kankakee (McNamara". Illinois High School Association (IHSA). 1 April 2010. Retrieved 8 April 2010. 
  2. ^ "Chicago (Brother Rice)". Illinois High School Association (IHSA). 1 April 2010. Retrieved 8 April 2010. 
  3. ^ "Chicago (De La Salle)". Illinois High School Association (IHSA). 1 April 2010. Retrieved 8 April 2010. 
  4. ^ "Oak Park (Fenwick)". Illinois High School Association (IHSA). 1 April 2010. Retrieved 8 April 2010. 
  5. ^ "Chicago (Grodon Tech)". Illinois High School Association (IHSA). 1 April 2010. Retrieved 8 April 2010. 
  6. ^ "Chicago (Hales Franciscan)". Illinois High School Association (IHSA). 1 April 2010. Retrieved 8 April 2010. 
  7. ^ "Chicago (Leo)". Illinois High School Association (IHSA). 1 April 2010. Retrieved 8 April 2010. 
  8. ^ "Wilmette (Loyola Academy)". Illinois High School Association (IHSA). 1 April 2010. Retrieved 8 April 2010. 
  9. ^ "Chicago (Mt. Carmel)". Illinois High School Association (IHSA). 1 April 2010. Retrieved 8 April 2010. 
  10. ^ "New Lenox (Providence Catholic)". Illinois High School Association (IHSA). 1 April 2010. Retrieved 8 April 2010. 
  11. ^ "South Holland (Seton Academy)". Illinois High School Association (IHSA). 1 April 2010. Retrieved 8 April 2010. 
  12. ^ "Chicago (St. Ignatius College Prep)". Illinois High School Association (IHSA). 1 April 2010. Retrieved 8 April 2010. 
  13. ^ "Burbank (St. Laurence)". Illinois High School Association (IHSA). 1 April 2010. Retrieved 8 April 2010. 
  14. ^ "Chicago (St. Rita)". Illinois High School Association (IHSA). 1 April 2010. Retrieved 8 April 2010. 
  15. ^ a b "CATHOLICS TO FORM LEAGUE :Eight "Prep" Schools Will Enter New Football Body. DRAFT SCHEDULE TONIGHT.". Chicago Tribune: pp. 10. 3 October 1912. 
  16. ^ "Last Catholic All-Star". Chicago Tribune: pp. b2. 17 February 1974. "A distinguished basketball era will end in DePaul Alumni Hall ... the Chicago Catholic League will tangle in the 29th and last league all-star game ... With the league schools ... joining the Illinois High School Association next fall ... the all-star game ... in violation of IHSA rules, would be eliminated." 
  17. ^ Boys Baseball Champions and Runners-Up, @; accessed 7 October 2008
  18. ^ Boys Basketball Championship Games, @; accessed 7 October 2008
  19. ^ IHSA Announcement:Board Approves Class Expansion in 2007-08, Penalizes Hales Franciscan, 11 January 2006; accessed 7 October 2008
  20. ^ IHSA Announcement: Hales Franciscan High School Suspended From IHSA Membership, 23 November 2005; accessed 7 October 2008
  21. ^ a b Boys Football Champions and Runners-Up, @; accessed 7 October 2008
  22. ^ "1st Prep Bowl attracted 50,000". Chicago Tribune: pp. j2. 3 December 1977. "The game, played in freezing weather in Soldier Field, attracted 50,000 ... according to sportswriter Wilfrid Smith, was 'a record crowd for prep football in this country' ... In 1937, it attracted the largest crowd ever to watch a high school football game, when nearly 120,000 saw ... Austin (defeat) Leo, 26-0." 
  23. ^ Shnay, Jerry (24 November 1981). "Football :Prep Bowl may be gone after 1982". Chicago Tribune: pp. d3. "The Prep Bowl ... is in danger of being killed ... by a by-law ... This week, all high school principals in Illinois will vote on proposals to amend the Constitution of the IHSA, among them ... a plan that sets limits on all high school sports with a maximum nine game football season not including the state playoffs." 
  24. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n IHSA General Football Records; accessed 9 April 2009
  25. ^ Boys Golf Team Champions and Runners-Up, @; accessed 7 October 2008
  26. ^ Boys Swimming & Diving Team Champions and Runners-Up, @; accessed 7 October 2008
  27. ^ Boys Track & Field Team Champions and Runners-Up, @; accessed 7 October 2008
  28. ^ Boys Water Polo Champions & Runners-Up, @; accessed 7 October 2008
  29. ^ Illinois Water Polo at Illinois Water Polo 2007 All-State Banquet. Retrieved 18 September 2008.
  30. ^ Boys Wrestling Champions & Runners-Up, @; accessed 7 October 2008
  31. ^ Mexican wrestler Langowski a true Chicago story, 1 August 2008, Beacon News; accessed 24 August 2008
  32. ^ Couch, Greg, Mexico's one-man gang, 1 August 2008, Chicago Sun-Times; accessed 24 August 2008
  33. ^ Robert Meschbach bio
  34. ^ IHSA individual all-time boys soccer records
  35. ^ Jitim Young bio (dleague)

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