The headmasters of the six private schools that make up the Interstate Athletic Conference yesterday decided against merging with the Baltimore-based Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association for football and plan to move ahead with a five-team football league that won't include Georgetown Prep next fall, conference president Tom Farquhar said yesterday.

The Little Hoyas were voted out of the IAC for football this year by the conference's headmasters in what Farquhar -- the head of school at Bullis -- called an attempt to restore competitive balance. Prep, meantime, has accepted an invitation to join the MIAA's A conference -- its most competitive division -- next season, Athletic Director Dan Paro said. Prep will continue to compete in the IAC in other sports.

The IAC and MIAA had been in talks for more than a year about merging, but some IAC schools did not want to play under MIAA regulations, which allow out-of-season practices and, in rare instances, athletic scholarships. Starting next year, the IAC's football lineup will consist of Landon, Bullis, St. Stephen's/St. Agnes, Episcopal and St. Albans.

"At the end of the day, we weren't ready to let go of years of great traditional matchups," Farquhar said. "The value of continuing relations that have developed over decades simply outweighed the advantages of exploring new competitive matchups."

Prep, whose high school enrollment of 425 boys is more than any other IAC school, won four consecutive IAC football championships before finishing runner-up this year. It will play in a league that includes Loyola, Calvert Hall, Mount St. Joseph, Gilman, McDonogh and another new team, Archbishop Curley, which has agreed to move up from the B conference.

"We're very excited about the opportunity to compete with the schools in the A conference of the MIAA," Paro said. "But we'll certainly miss the relationships we've built with IAC teams on the field and the friendships we've developed off the field."