When attempting to rank the conferences, the metric one uses needs to have a foundation in something.
In this quest, I've landed on playoff victories as the most heavily weighed factor in my formula.
The reason for this is relatively simple. It's obviously the biggest indicator of overall achievement, but it also something that translates across the classifications as an indicator of true success.
That's probably the biggest obstacle, ranking schools of all sizes against one another. But playoff wins are probably the most fair indicator of where true strength lies. It not only shows which programs rise to the top, but also which leagues consistency produce playoff teams that win games once they are there.
As we take a look at the conferences that finished the past decade ranked 74 through 51, you will see a fairly consistent thread. These are leagues where their membership group has struggled to get much of a foothold in the postseason, and in the cases where they might have they tend to be isolated to a short period of time.
74. CPL Second City (20.667 decade rating): As is the case in several CPL divisions, some of the teams haven't even been playoff eligible for the entire decade. In this division, they've never achieved a playoff win.
73. CPL Great Lakes (22.099 decade rating): Another league hampered by not even being playoff eligible in some cases. It is another conference without a state playoff win over the last decade.
72: CPL Big Shoulders (24.834 decade rating): Of this league's membership, King made a little blip in the middle of the decade but it is largely made of up teams that haven't put together much.
71: CPL Prairie State (25.333 decade rating): Of the CPL divisions, this one could be classified as trending up. Kenwood picked up a state playoff win just last year, and Payton has been a fairly consistent performer.
70: CPL Windy City (25.449 decade rating): Orr has picked up a few playoff wins in recent seasons, while Agricultural Science has put together a consistent track record of wins, albeit not in the postseason as of yet.
69: CPL Heartland (26.633 decade rating): Urban-Prep Bronzeville scored a rare CPL double-digit season score in 2018 with a playoff win and has been steady, but the rest of the league has struggled to get much going.
68. SouthWest Prairie East (28.499 decade rating): One of the starkest differences in conference division breakdown around, as only one team has achieved a double-digit single-season score in the last decade (Plainfield South), and that was 10 years ago.
67: CCL/ESCC Red (31.0 decade rating): The tiered scheduling system of the CCL/ESCC alliance will probably eventually help this league's ranking move up a bit. But years of both conferences' elite teams crippling the weaker ones have taken its toll on Red's current ranking.
66: Upstate Eight (35.1 decade rating): This is one of the leagues that has morphed considerably over the last decade with nearly all of the group's stronger clubs moving to other conferences. Those that are left combined forces with several teams that also struggled in their former leagues, leading to a group that doesn't have much of a historical footprint.
65: Metro Red (36.547 decade rating): Another clear division of where the power lies within the conference as the Metro Blue ranks considerably higher than its conference brethren in the system.
64: Prairie State (42.1 decade rating): This league has slowly turned into a conference where schools seem to land if they've lost a previous league affiliation or just needed to find somewhere to link up with other schools to avoid being an independent. As such, other than one solid season from Alton Marquette, not much damage has been done by this group.
63. Heart of Illinois Small (42.8 decade rating): Sensing a theme here, the divisional format of the Heart of Illinois also has one clearly stronger division than the other. LeRoy's success in the middle of the decade keeps this league out of the truly bottom tier.
62. Northeastern Athletic (43.6 decade rating): This used to be a pretty vibrant small school conference. But a few 8-man defections and a program folding has left this group as a shell of its former self. Ottawa Marquette's success accounts for much of the score it does have.
61. Prairie Land Blue (44.334 decade rating): Starting here you start to see the benefits of having multiple teams with strong track records of success. Elmwood (excluding last season) and Knoxville have thrown up multiple double-digit season scores and helped the overall standing of this league.
60. Three Rivers Mississippi (44.715 decade rating): Princeton has reached a few high points for this league, but the rating reflects a largely average productivity rating from year to year.
59. West Suburban Gold (45.287 decade rating): Willowbrook's recent surge has really propelled this league from rating very low on the scale. Other programs in this league have very isolated and short-term success patterns.
58. Central Suburban North (45.666 decade rating): Vernon Hills title-game run in 2016 propped up this conference for one season, but most of its seasonal ratings are below average in nature.
57. Northern Lake County (46.625 decade rating): This conference has had some pretty good regular-season teams (Antioch, Lakes), but no one has made a real dent in terms of playoff success on the regular.
56. Black Diamond (47.4 decade rating): The benefit of this scoring system for locked conferences is that there's a baseline that you can't drop below. But if that isn't coupled with some playoff success, such as is the case with the Black Diamond, there is not much room for upward mobility.
55. Cahokia (48.285 decade rating): This conference has changed its make-up a little bit during the decade and also has only one consistently solid performer in Columbia, so that keeps the rating down a bit.
54. Mid-Suburban East (50.334 decade rating): There's been a recent uptick for this conference with better performances from Hersey and Prospect, but Rolling Meadows has carried almost all of the load for much of the decade.
53. Sangamon Valley (51.856 decade rating): Clifton Central has been the standard bearer from the SVC, but its success level hasn't been high enough to move this conference much higher on the list. Paxton has been a fairly consistent performer recently and while Watseka has stepped up, it has in reality swapped places with Momence, which has faltered in recent campaigns.
52. Southland (52.444 decade rating): This league's rating is an indicator that a really strong performance by one program (Crete-Monee) isn't enough to pull up an entire league of teams that frankly haven't produced a whole heck of a lot on a statewide scale.
51. Southern Illinois River to River-Ohio (52.833 decade rating): This a conference that has gotten productivity at times from a wide array of sources as four different teams have led the way at one time or another. Nashville's run to the state title game in 2019 gave them a nice boost to finish things off.
More conferences to be revealed at a later date...