While discussions on the topic of football realignment have reached near exhaustion in this part of the state, and an immediate solution seems nowhere in site, two area schools have decided the time for talk is over, and it is now time to take action.
That’s why Boscobel and Southwestern have both applied to join the Six Rivers conference for the 2019-20 school year, in either football only, or for all sports. A vote by the superintendents of the Six Rivers conference will be taken on those applications later this month on Nov. 29.
“Ultimately we all feel it’s going to take a couple dominos that are going to have to fall to make the rest of them go,” said Boscobel Activities Director Joey Martin. “We’re willing to be one of those dominos that needs to start the fall.”
I guess you could say the fall actually started a couple of years ago with Riverdale leaving the SWAL for the Ridge & Valley conference. Since then, there has been no shortage of discussion when it comes to realignment proposals for area football teams.
Concerns such as decreasing enrollments, competition and most importantly, the safety of their players, has brought many coaches and athletic directors to the point of reevaluating just where it is their team fits best.
Discussions throughout Southwest Wisconsin are also being held on possible co-ops with neighboring schools or the idea of playing eight-man football. That option is not viable for Boscobel though, who is above the enrollment cut-off of 200 students.
It was only about a month ago when a 34-school realignment proposal was introduced involving teams from the SWC, SWAL, Six Rivers, Coulee and South Central conferences. That proposal has since been deemed “dead in the water.”
That proposal has since been trimmed to 24 schools, which would form three districts, with the removal of the eight teams from the Six Rivers, as well as Southwestern and Boscobel.
The adjusted proposal essentially frees up Boscobel and Southwestern to join the Six Rivers for football only, as well as provide a solution for everyone else who wouldn’t have to fill holes in their schedules.
So far, this newly adjusted proposal doesn’t seem to be gaining much traction either, and from what Martin understands, 18 of the 24 teams have responded to it, with only 15 of those 18 being in favor of the plan.
With that being said, Boscobel and Southwestern have taken matters into their own hands, and have both applied to join the Six Rivers conference, either for football only, or for all sports, starting in the school year of 2019-20.
If you’re thinking this course of action lacks the traction needed to make a change, you couldn’t be more wrong.
On Wednesday, Oct. 25, superintendents from the Six Rivers conference held a meeting, along with the superintendents from Boscobel and Southwestern also in attendance. Two “advisory” votes where taken at that meeting to determine whether or not the superintendents would accept Boscobel and Southwestern into the Six Rivers for football only, or for all sports, beginning next year.
The first “advisory” vote passed 11-3 in favor of letting the two schools in for football only, while the second passed 12-2 in favor of letting both in for all sports.
Armed with the results of the two “advisory” votes made by the Six Rivers superintendents, a meeting of SWAL activities directors, principals and superintendents was then held on Nov. 1, where only one agenda item was discussed; whether or not to allow Boscobel and Southwestern to leave the SWAL for football only, starting in 2018.
Those at the meeting didn’t even make a motion on the agenda item, and instead overwhelmingly said no, specifically to the date.
That’s when Boscobel apparently made it clear that if the Six Rivers is willing to take them for the 2019-20 school year, they will submit their paperwork to withdraw from the SWAL, believing that the new 24-team district plan is also dead in the water.
“There’s a lot of wheels spinning, and we’re in a tough spot now, especially with football,” said Martin. “All this conference realignment is being talked about, and we have a window here that we can make a change and hopefully better the situation for our student athletes.”
“Yes, we need to be aggressive because there is no plan that’s concrete and has a ton of traction,” Martin added. “We need to look at what’s best for our kids, and look at all sports.”
Boscobel, who has a projected enrollment for 2018-19 of 233 students, had 14 juniors on this year’s football team, which Martin expects to get back next season as seniors. It’s the grades after that that has him concerned for the future of Boscobel football.
“We have a good group of upcoming seniors next year coming back as far as numbers and size, but we’re looking at the future, and after that we’re pretty thin,” Martin said. “We’re talking 16 to 18 sophomores through seniors for football.”
Southwestern, who has a 2018-19 projected student enrollment of 167, is in a similar situation, and feels they fit better in the Six Riv-ers conference when it comes to football specifically, than they do in the SWAL.
“We’re hanging on, but we’re not competing,” said Southwestern Activities Director Thomas Koeller. “And, if Boscobel goes, unfortunately that’s the one school in the SWAL that we have competed with the last two years.”
“We feel the same way, that we have zero confidence, after working on this so hard and for so long, that this new plan is going to get any traction,” said Koeller. “Time is of the essence. We’re not in as bad of shape as Boscobel, but we’re on that path.”
While Boscobel first explored the option of applying to the Six Rivers for football only, their preference has turned to joining for all sports, which isn’t the same for Southwestern.
“In our mind, the solution is to have Boscobel and Southwestern move in football only, and our preference would be to stay in the SWAL for everything else,” said Koeller.
He also noted that there has been some discussion that if Boscobel and Southwestern leave the SWAL for football only, that perhaps the five schools from the Capitol South would be a good fit to join the five remaining schools from the SWAL to form a 10-team football only conference.
“We have pretty big concerns if we went to the Six Rivers, with how the East and West would line up,” Koeller said. “Boscobel would clearly be in the West, and if you look at the map, we want nothing to do with going East,” Koeller added.
“To us, it makes way more sense that that would be Shullsburg, who is 20 miles east of us, but obviously we understand why Shullsburg wouldn’t want to. They have their own rivalries and they don’t want to go those long distances to Albany, Juda and Monticello,” Koeller added.
“That’s part of the reason that our preference is to just make a football-only move. We’re really happy in the SWAL. Not even considering sports, the SWAL has very well organized forensics and music,” Koeller said.
Plus, if Southwestern did compete in the Six Rivers for all sports, it would also affect their co-ops with Cuba City in golf, cross country, wrestling and gymnastics.
“Our view has been, we’ve worked with you, we’ve tried to look at the bigger picture and look out for the SWAL. We like the SWAL. We want to help football statewide. My ultimate goal would be a statewide districts plan,” Koeller said.
“But it’s gotten to the point where we’re seeing the writing on the wall that despite all the work, it just keeps getting blown up and blown up, so finally we have to look at what’s best for Southwestern students. And that’s where we’re at now,” Koeller added.
If the Six Rivers should accept both Boscobel and Southwestern in either football only, or in all sports, at their Nov. 29 meeting, the next course of action would come in April. That’s when Boscobel and Southwestern would have to give the SWAL their 30-day notice prior to the league’s joint meeting in May, that they intend to leave the conference.
While Martin said a lot can happen in the meantime, he stipulated that, “Basically for us to stay in the SWAL for all sports in 2019-20, there has to be a concrete plan for football and for all sports.”
“We don’t want to break up this whole thing, but it’s going to take a domino to relieve us in football,” Martin added. “We need what’s best for our kids. I just fear that if we don’t do anything soon, we’re not going to have football here.”