Though not the oldest high school athletic conference in the state of Illinois (the former Suburban League holds that distinction), the Chicago Catholic League has been in operation longer than any other. It all began on October 3, 1912 when representatives of eight parochial schools met in Chicago’s Great Northern Hotel (demolished in 1992) to found the Catholic League. Those charter members were Loyola academy, St. Cyril (Mt Carmel), DePaul Academy, St. Philip, St. Ignatius, De La Salle, Cathedral and St. Stanislaus. In that very first year of its existence the League sponsored only basketball and indoor baseball. Football competition was to follow in the 1913-14 school year, track in 1916-17 swimming, golf, and tennis in 1923-24, cross country in 1946-47, wrestling in 1964-65, water polo in 1965-66, soccer in 1967 and volleyball in 1993. Baseball was dropped after the 1930 season but was reinstated in the 1957-58 season.
For the first 71 years of its existence, the Chicago Catholic League operated independently of the Illinois high school association (IHSA). The League’s renown, especially in football and basketball, was recognized nationwide. But, during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, as the need developed for a wider base of competition especially in such sports as swimming, track, wrestling, golf, tennis and baseball, the principals of the League’s schools began to consider the possibility of joining the IHSA. After much discussion, many arguments over pros and cons, and several meetings with the IHSA staff, the Catholic League’s Principals voted 11-1 in favor of joining the State Association. Thought the momentous vote was taken on January 30, 1973, the actual entrance into the IHSA did not take place until June 10, 1974. The reason for the 18 month wait was to give the League a full year of athletic competition during which it could make the transition to those rules and practices of the IHSA which differed from those current at the time in the Catholic League. Though there was a multitude of objections from many in the Catholic League to the decision to join IHSA, the benefits that have accrued to the Catholic League schools and students since 1974 have far outweighed the original objections