More change is likely coming to prep football conference alignment in 2020.
The Wisconsin Football Coaches Association released its statewide football-only realignment proposal, that if passed by the WIAA would go into effect in 2020.
This proposal comes just four months after the WIAA voted to approve a football-only conference realignment plan for six conferences in Southwest Wisconsin that will go into effect in 2019.
“Conference realignment has been a significant challenge for the WIAA, member schools, and football programs for many years,” said the WFCA press release posted Monday morning on its website. “With the issues becoming more and more prevalent, and often driven by the sport of football, last winter the WIAA tasked the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association with developing a proposal to address football-only conference realignment, an idea that had significant support from school administrators at the 2017 WIAA Area Meetings. After months of work by an ad hoc committee of WFCA Executive Board members, the WFCA has released its proposal.
“The objective of the WFCA plan is to form a football-only conference model for implementation in the 2020 season that brings uniformity to the number of schools per conference and the number of conference games played by each team. Currently, some conferences feature as many as 11 teams while others feature as few as four. Some teams must win five games to qualify for the playoffs, while others have to win as few as two. Many schools are also having significant difficulty in finding non-conference games during the middle of the season if in a league with an odd number of teams.”
The WIAA realignment plan for Southwest Wisconsin that would group Platteville with Dodgeville, Prairie du Chien, Richland Center, River Valley, Arcadia, Viroqua and Westby and send Lancaster to the SWAL along with Iowa–Grant, Mineral Point, Cuba City, Darlington, Fennimore, La Crosse Aquinas and Onalaska Luther, and Belmont to the Ridge and Valley would still go into effect for 2019, but would be scraped after just one season if the WFCA plan were approved.
The framework of the new WFCA proposal is to move all 11-player football programs into uniform conference alignments of mostly eight-, but some seven-team leagues, while keeping as many current conferences together as possible.
The WFCA final draft has moved only 18% (or 72 of 390+ teams) playing 11-player football to a different conference.
Under the WFCA proposal, Lancaster would rejoin in the SWC with long-time league rivals Platteville, Dodgeville, Prairie du Chien, Richland Center and River Valley, while Viroqua and New Glarus/Monticello would also be added to the league.
Fennimore, Cuba City, Darlington and Mineral Point would remain the core of the SWAL, while Pecatonica/Argyle, Belleville, Cambridge and Orfordville Parkview would fill in the remaining four slots in the conference.
Iowa–Grant and Southwestern would join Potosi/Cassville, Belmont, River Ridge, Black Hawk/Warren (Ill.), Benton/Scales Mound (Ill.) and Highland in the eight-team Six Rivers Conference.
Boscobel would join Riverdale, Kickapoo/La Farge, Wauzeka/Seneca, Wonewoc/Weston, De Soto, North Crawford and Ithaca in the Ridge & Valley.
Shullsburg will be playing 8-player football beginning in 2019.
According to the WFCA press release, the WFCA has sought input from its members and contacted most of those schools that would change conferences. It is also noted that a 2017 WFCA survey showed more than 65 percent of coaches favored developing football-only conferences over the status quo.
In addition, leagues that feature seven teams will be provided a designated “sister conference” that will feature required bye week crossovers in Weeks 3 through 9 that will count in conference standings for both sides. As a result, all teams in the state will play exactly seven conference games, all in Weeks 3 through 9. Weeks 1 and 2 will be open dates for schools to schedule their own non-conference contests.
There will be a designated process for schools to request review and relief from their designated conferences, with a two-year cycle. A committee would review official written requests from member schools by February 1st of odd-numbered years, and then provide a recommendation to the WIAA Board of Control, who has final say in all realignment matters.
WIAA procedures will also be in place to address situations where a team drops football, enters a new co-op, switches to 8-Player, or new teams are formed. Requests for relief would only be made in odd-numbered years, to be reviewed and then any changes implemented in the even-numbered years. Once implemented there would not be any changes until the next even-numbered year, so all conference designations would apply for a minimum of two years.
The WFCA released added, “This plan is a joint effort between the WFCA and WIAA Executive Staff that addresses many of the problems with the current conference realignment process and issues related to playoff qualification in many parts of the state, while creating uniformity in how teams make the postseason. The goal of the committee has NOT been to provide conference or school realignment relief from their current situations. However, during the process, if an opportunity presented itself, without disrupting the uniformity objective, the committee was able to provide relief to some schools to place them in a more competitive situation.
“The WFCA and the WIAA both realize that when tackling something this big, some members will be unhappy with their conference placement. No plan will ever be perfect for everyone. No plan will ever make everyone 100 percent happy. The WFCA looked at many situations that have historically been trouble spots and addressed that could be improved without creating additional issues. We encourage our membership to support this model and give it a chance to meet its objective.”
This proposal has been provided to the WIAA, who will seek input from member schools and administrators over the coming months, including at this fall’s Area Meetings. The WIAA has final authority to change or adjust the plan at any time.