MIFFLIN — Conference realignment has been a hotly debated topic for years.
In 2010, the WIAA proposed a district playoff plan for football only that, depending on your point of view, could have solved most of these headaches.
Since that proposal was shot down, Riverdale football has left the Southwest Wisconsin Activities League (SWAL) for the Ridge & Valley, Cassville has joined a football co-op with Potosi, Southwestern’s enrollment (174) has dipped below Six Rivers Conference teams Pecatonica/Argyle (209) River Ridge (193), and the Southwest Wisconsin Conference (SWC) and Coulee Conferences have been struggling to fill non-conference schedules in their six-team leagues.
Enter the latest proposal.
Iowa–Grant principal and athletic director Chris Gotto shared with the I–G school board at the Oct. 9 board meeting a football-only realignment plan that has been circulating around five area conferences. The newest proposal is plan to combine the SWC, SWAL, Six Rivers, Coulee and South Central into four football-only conferences based on enrollment.
“This is similar to the WIAA’s district plan introduced a few years ago,” said Gotto.
He also noted that there would be a two-year roll through, meaning conference affiliation would be set for two years, then if enrollments change, teams could be bumped up or down. The earliest this plan would go into effect is 2020. It was not addressed how the plan would handle junior varsity scheduling if schools did not have enough participants to field teams below varsity level.
Gotto said the plan is only in talking stages at this point and added there are other potential decisions that could effect this proposal.
One decision is a possible switch to 8-Man football, which was last played in this part of the state in the 1960s before area schools started co-ops and school district mergers.
There has been 8-man football throughout the state for most of the decade and beginning next fall the WIAA will sponsor a 16-team 8-man state tournament for the first time. This year, 26 teams throughout Wisconsin played 8-man football.
Several area small schools held a meeting at Highland last Wednesday to gauge interest in 8-Man football and the possibility of forming and local 8-Man football conference.
Gotto said he has also been in contact with Highland principal Josh Tarrell regarding a possible Iowa–Grant/Highland football co-op. The two schools currently co-op for wrestling and have in the past for cross country.
“We co-op with Highland in wrestling and it is working wonderfully,” said board member Rachel Zimmer.
Board member Fred DiVall said Iowa–Grant and Highland also co-op for youth football.
Gotto went on to explain that with current enrollment figures, 197 for Iowa–Grant and 98 for Highland, a co-op enrollment of 295 would move Iowa–Grant up a division or two for the playoffs.
The Panthers defeated Cuba City Friday night to earn a berth in the Division 7 berth. Iowa–Grant played in the Division 6 playoffs a year ago and would have been a D5 playoff team this year with a co-op enrollment of 295.
“Both schools would have to approve a co-op and so would the SWAL (conference),” said Gotto. “It would then go to the WIAA. He added, that for a co-op to go into effect next year, a decision would have to be made soon.
Gotto also explained how co-op costs are distributed between the districts, noting that the co-oping school would be responsible for its own travel to and from practices. Gotto also indicated that he has talked with Iowa–Grant football coach Gary Allen (who is also an assistant wrestling coach) and he is open to looking into the co-op situation.
Co-ops are approved on a two-year basis and must be renewed every two years. Renewal is voted on in February.
After the discussion the board asked Gotto to invite Tarrell to the next meeting and include any Highland School Board members wanting to attend.
Proposed FOOTBALL ONLY conference realignment:
Black Hawk (94)
Benton/Scales Mound (130)
River Ridge (193)
Mineral Point (210)
Onalaska Luther (224)
Cuba City (241)
La Crosse Aquinas (290)
Prairie du Chien (415)
River Valley (419)
Richland Center (420)
Wisconsin Dells (515)
Black Rivers Falls (520)
West Salem (530)