WFCA football-only realignment proposal alters Big Eight, Badger South and Capitol in 2020
The Wisconsin Football Coaches Association’s proposal for football-only conference realignment beginning in 2020 was released Monday and will alter several area conferences — including the Big Eight, Badger South and Capitol North and South.
As expected, the plan for 11-player football has Janesville Craig and Janesville Parker leaving the Big Eight Conference and moving to the Badger South Conference.
That would leave the Big Eight with eight teams — Sun Prairie (largest enrollment in conference with 2,389), Madison West, Middleton, Madison Memorial, Beloit Memorial, Madison East, Verona and Madison La Follette (smallest enrollment in conference, 1,572).
“I thought they did a good job putting everything together,” Madison Memorial athletic director Jeremy Schlitz said Monday, believing the shift of the Janesville schools was “the right move.”
The objective was to create uniformity across the state in the number of schools in a conference and the number of conference games played by each team in that conference. A byproduct of that will be a more clear-cut determination of playoff qualifiers, Schlitz said.
Madison Edgewood and Monroe would move from the Badger South to the Rock Valley, leaving the Badger South with eight teams. Craig, with an enrollment of 1,865 would become the largest school in the Badger South, while Fort Atkinson would be the smallest (912). The Badger North would remain the same, under the proposal.
The Rock Valley would have a new eight-team look, gaining Edgewood and Monroe and seeing four other schools depart.
The Rock Valley would feature (in enrollment order): McFarland (the largest school, 707), Monroe (690), Jefferson, Evansville/Albany, East Troy, Whitewater, Edgerton and Edgewood (smallest with 486).
Edgewood, currently the smallest school in the Badger South, previously had expressed interest in moving to a different football situation for competitive reasons.
Crusaders athletic director Chris Zwettler said Monday he wasn’t surprised by the WFCA proposal. However, Zwettler said Badger Conference administrators discussed at a May meeting moving to a Large School-Small School format (based on enrollment) of its 16 teams for football only starting in 2019 and are expected to examine that again in August.
Zwettler said Edgewood loves being in the Badger Conference and hopes the league will proceed with the Large-Small plan for 2019 and beyond, and that subsequently the WIAA would keep the Badger intact for football with Edgewood and Monroe included. If not, then Edgewood would move ahead with the WFCA proposal as it has been presented, Zwettler said.
Considerable change is proposed for the Capitol North and South conferences. Under the proposal, Marshall and Waterloo of the current Capitol South would be joined by Watertown/Luther Prep, Horicon/Hustisford, Palmyra Eagle, Dodgeland, Markesan and Pardeeville in the Capitol 1.
Lodi, Lake Mills, Columbus and Lakeside Lutheran of the current Capitol North would have new conference foes in Walworth/Big Foot, Beloit Turner, Brodhead/Juda and Clinton in the Capitol 2.
Belleville and Cambridge of the current Capitol South, plus Orfordville Parkview and Pecatonica/Argyle, would move to the SWAL and compete against Fennimore, Cuba City, Darlington and Mineral Point.
New Glarus/Monticello of the current Capitol South and Viroqua would move to the Southwest Conference with River Valley, Platteville, Dodgeville, Richland Center, Prairie du Chien and Lancaster.
Poynette of the current Capitol North and Montello/Princeton/Green Lake would join the South Central, with Mauston, Adams-Friendship, Wisconsin Dells, Wautoma, Nekoosa and Westfield.
Last winter, the WIAA tasked the WFCA with developing a proposal to address football-only conference realignment. After months of meetings, the proposal was released Monday.
WFCA president Doug Sarver said in a recent interview that uniformity across the state was the objective. Conference size varied widely, from 11 to four teams. A 2-to-1 enrollment ratio was used while trying to configure the conferences.
The proposal features primarily eight-team conferences, with some seven-team and nine-team conferences. Seven-team conferences will have a “sister conference” that will feature bye week crossover games that will count in the conference standings.
The proposal will go before the WIAA Board of Control in August and will be discussed at WIAA area meetings in September. Based on feedback, the plan then will be presented for final approval to the Board of Control in the fall or winter.
Schlitz, president-elect of the Wisconsin Athletic Directors Association and a liaison to the WIAA, said the rationale and content of the proposal have been well-communicated and hopes people will look at the greater good as opposed to having selfishness about competitive advantage when scrutinizing the proposal and placement of teams.
Schlitz expects there to be “valid tinkering” of the plan after the Board of Control and WIAA area meetings.
Verona football coach Dave Richardson and Sun Prairie coach Brian Kaminski recently said they favored the plan. Richardson thought eight teams for the Big Eight was an ideal number, adding that Big Eight teams will benefit from having two non-conference games during the regular season.
Richardson said there had been discussions about the Big Eight attempting to partner with a Milwaukee-area conference — he mentioned possibly the Greater Metro or Classic Eight — for non-conference games (using the previous year’s standings as a guide to scheduling).
Schlitz said Big Eight athletic directors hadn’t addressed that yet. He said partnering with another conference would help ease of scheduling, but might not be the eventual path chosen. Non-conference games between the Big Eight and Badger conferences could be explored. Beloit Memorial and the Janesville schools, for instance, might want to continue playing as non-conference foes.
If passed, there will be a process for schools to request relief from their conferences, with a two-year cycle.
Schlitz, part of a committee that will study all-sport realignment, said the football-only proposal could serve as pilot test case for realigning conferences for all sports in the future.