WIAA football plan: Three schools, three different opinions
The plan to restructure Wisconsin high school football conferences is drawing opinions from everywhere.
Now school boards from across the state are getting into the act.
Schools were asked to take a stance on the issue before the WIAA makes its final decision on the subject. The local results are in. Each of the three local schools had a different take on the plan.
The New Richmond Board of Education voted in opposition of the new conference structure. Somerset voted in favor of the new proposal. St. Croix Central also voted in favor of the plan, but suggested the WIAA wait a year before implementation to address the numerous concerns that have been aired.
A final decision on the football proposal is expected to be made at the Jan. 27 WIAA Board of Control meeting.
New Richmond has become one of the schools used as an example of those who oppose the district plan. New Richmond would face a huge increase in travel under the latest WIAA proposal. Only two of New Richmond's district opponents (River Falls and Menomonie) would be trips of less than one hour. The other schools in the district would be La Crosse Central, La Crosse Logan, Marshfield, Holmen and Tomah.
New Richmond would carry the lowest enrollment in the district, at 858. Marshfield, with 1,318 students, would be the largest school in the district. There are also football concerns because two of the most successful football programs in the state over the past decade, Menomonie and Marshfield, were placed together in this district.
"Everyone is looking at it from the standpoint of how it impacts their fans, community, travel, budget," said New Richmond athletic director Casey Eckardt.
Eckardt said the Tigers currently average road trips of 33 miles one way for their Middle Border Conference games. That would increase to an average of 119 miles one way under the new plan.
Eckardt acknowledged that the proposal does have solid support and could pass for use this fall.
"We're not afraid to take on better competition. In the last two years we've made significant progress," Eckardt said. "If the WIAA tells us it's a go, we'll saddle up and get stronger."
Somerset's football team is placed in Division 4 in the current WIAA proposal. They will face teams like Northwestern, Barron, Cumberland, Chetek, St. Croix Falls, Spooner and Unity.
Somerset has the second largest enrollment among the eight teams. With enrollments of area schools rising and other areas of the state seeing enrollments tumble, Somerset's place could change in the future.
"We could move up to Division 3 in a couple years. That's life," said Somerset athletic director Brad Nemec. "If you look at (the proposal) selfishly, there's a lot you can argue about. If you look at it for the state of football, there's a lot to like."
Nemec has been in athletic administration for 35 years. He said the most taxing thing he sees in high school sports is the end of the football season, where teams that reach the playoffs have to play three games in nine days.
The football proposal would eliminate the Tuesday game as the first round of the state playoffs. He said having to play three games in nine days is one of the largest sources of injuries in state high school sports.
St. Croix Central
St. Croix Central is also in Division 4, in a bracket where Central is the northernmost team. There is less than a 100-student difference in the enrollments in this bracket. Altoona is the largest school at 445 and Mondovi is the smallest at 348. Central is slightly above Mondovi at 358.
Central school board chairman Howard Kruschke wanted a shared opinion between the board, school administration and football coaches.
"We are in agreement with the WIAA with how things need to be changed," said Central athletic director Nic Been.
Been said the majority involved at Central understood the WIAA's reasoning. But they also agreed that there are a number of questions like lower level scheduling that haven't been ironed out. That's why they were in favor of having the WIAA take another year to iron out the wrinkles in the plan before it is implemented.