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WIAA could do away with football conferences

A joint plan between the WIAA and the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association that would do away with conferences for high school football is expected to be unveiled this week.

The proposal would do away with all conferences for football only in Wisconsin high school sports. It would be replaced with a structure similar to the system used for the WIAA state football playoffs.

In place of conferences, the state would be divided into seven 64-school divisions, based upon enrollment. The top 64 enrollments with football programs would be placed in Division 1, and so on.

Those 64 teams would then be divided into eight eight-team regions, based on geographic proximity.

The idea was produced by former Baldwin-Woodville football coach Wade Labecki, who is now an associate director at the WIAA. At the last WIAA annual meeting, there was a call to include all schools in the WIAA state football playoffs. Labecki said the football coaches overwhelmingly opposed having all schools in the playoffs.

Labecki began working on an idea to answer the nagging questions surrounding football. One is the constant call for conference realignment, which comes mostly from football fans. The other is playoff seeding. In this system, the seeding process would be settled by the won-loss record within each division.

Labecki said this proposal is still in the early stages. The Wisconsin Football Coaches Association (WFCA) will be collecting input on the idea until mid-August. The WIAA is planning to bring the subject to its area meetings in September.

The idea was unveiled to the WFCA coaches on Saturday at the WFCA all-star games and coaches meeting. It was announced on the WIAA and WFCA Web sites on Tuesday.

The geographic regions used for this proposal are similar to those used in other sports by the WIAA for seeding purposes.

Labecki said there are two arguments against the proposal, travel and rivalries. To face schools with similar enrollments, travel will be increased significantly. Schools will lose some of their traditional rivalries, but with one non-conference game, they will still have the option of scheduling a game against a rival.

There are schools in several areas of the state that are pulling out of conferences because they are unable to compete in football, according to Labecki. This would alleviate that issue.

Under this plan, the top four schools in each eight-school bracket would qualify for playoffs. The seeding would follow how the teams rank in their division standings. For playoffs the teams would then cross over to play teams from the next nearest district, with the top seed from one district playing the fourth seed from the other district, and vice versa.

If the state schools vote for this idea, it would be on a four-year trial basis, according to Labecki. The divisions would be set up for two-year cycles, so each team would get a home game in the alternating years against each opponent.

The Middle Border Conference is an example of how enrollments have spread out. There are schools in the MBC that would be competing in Division 2 (New Richmond), to Division 4 (Somerset, Baldwin-Woodville, Prescott and Durand).

Here are how some local schools would be placed by Division under the new proposal:

Division 1: Hudson, Superior, Eau Claire North, Eau Claire Memorial, Chippewa Falls, D.C. Everest, Stevens Point, Wausau West

Division 2: New Richmond, River Falls, Holmen, Tomah, La Crosse Central, La Crosse Logan, Menomonie and Onalaska.

Division 3: Amery, Osceola, Ellsworth, Ashland, Hayward, Medford, Rice Lake, Tomahawk

Division 4: Somerset, Barron, Bloomer, Cumberland, Northwestern, St. Croix Falls, Spooner, Unity

Division 4: St. Croix Central, Baldwin-Woodville, Durand, Prescott, Altoona, Mondovi, Neillsville, Gale-Ettrick-Trempeleau

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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