Friday, September 27, 2013

Should Athletic Conferences Realign?

from today's Waukesha Freeman -

Local schools would like to stay
Realignment talk brings up many scenarios

Freeman Staff

WAUKESHA – Catholic Memorial has been the subject of several rumors recently.

With several high schools in southeastern Wisconsin voicing their desire to join new conferences, Memorial has been brought up in several rumors.

But Memorial Athletic
 Director Greg Gamalski said, “We’re happy where we’re at despite the enrollment discrepancy. It would take a complete realignment of southeast Wisconsin to possibly have us included in it.”

Memorial’s enrollment is less than 700, while all other schools in the league have an enrollment of more than 1,000 students. The largest school in the conference, Arrowhead, has an enrollment
 or more than 2,000 students.

While many schools would crumble under those numbers, Memorial has thrived. The Crusaders are perennial conference contenders in
 several sports and won state titles in boys basketball, boys golf, girls volleyball, boys volleyball and football in the past decade.

“Based on our success in both being competitive in the conference and the state championship series, I’d say we’re doing all right.”

But with Wisconsin Lutheran, West Bend East and West Bend West wanting out of the
 Wisconsin Little Ten Conference, many scenarios have been floated out. 

“It feels very unnerving to have a conference – and the people involved – that we care for so much disbanded or changed in a great way,” Oconomowoc Athletic Director Scott Raduka said. “Sometimes when you’re so comfortable, though, maybe change is OK. We’ll be ready for whatever happens. We already are.”

Milwaukee Lutheran also would like to leave the North Shore Conference, and Wauwatosa West (Woodland Conference) and Wauwatosa East (Greater Metro Conference) would like to be paired in the same conference.

The Woodland has been mentioned in several realignment scenarios. The league will undergo a slight change for the 2014-15 school year with St. Francis leaving for the Midwest Classic Conference and the Shorewood/Messmer football program rejoining the league. But with the league’s mid-size enrollment numbers, it’s a desirable location for several schools looking to move.

“That’s always been the case,” Pewaukee Athletic Director John Maltsch said. “It’s because of the location of where we are and the sizes of the schools. People think they can come to the Woodland and be competitive.”

But Maltsch warns that the Woodland isn’t always the ideal spot for a school looking for a change.

“A lot of times, schools are looking for the wrong reasons,” he said. “Many are looking at football only, but that’s not necessarily the answer. Football always drives realignment.”

A big issue with the Little Ten teams leaving is the conference’s geographical makeup. Making trips to Beaver Dam, Watertown, Oconomowoc, West Bend, Slinger and Hartford is a major reason Wisconsin Lutheran would like to move. If the West Bend schools were to leave, slotting the remaining five schools into other conferences might not be easy because of their distance from each other.

“We’re very fortunate. We’re one of very few conference where there’s very little travel time,” Arrowhead Athletic Director Kevin Flegner said of the Classic 8. “Any time you talk about travel, it’s always a positive when everybody is close. From that standpoint, Oconomowoc would seem a natural fit (in the Classic 8).”

But simply adding a school to the league is not simple. Would the WIAA decide to take a school out to put Oconomowoc in the Classic 8? If that were the case, where would the other school go? Perhaps adding an even number of teams would balance the league, but then who would be the 10th school be?

“They could look to add schools to the Classic 8 as long as they kept it at an even number,” Gamalski said. “I don’t necessarily like the (10-school) scheduling, because you’re sort of wrapped up with the conference schedule and don’t have much of a nonconference schedule.”

Classic 8 athletic directors haven’t officially discussed realignment options. The ADs met with Commissioner Dave Sternig before the area meetings, and they won’t meet again until next week. After a slight realignment last year – Pius went to the Woodland and Muskego joined the league – the conference is ready to open more realignment discussion.

“We really don’t know what the plan is,” Sternig said. “You hear about other schools wanting out, and suddenly you’re wondering, ‘What the heck is going on here?’” A big part of this recent realignment talk is joining the two schools in Wauwatosa. Waukesha North, Waukesha South and Waukesha West also want to remain together.

“It’s something that would be interesting to talk to somebody about and see where they want to go with it,” South Athletic Director Dan Domach said. “If we would do this, we all three have to go in the same direction. It wouldn’t make sense for either of us to peel off.”

Said West Athletic Director Kyle LeMieux, “If there were ever reason to take part in realignment discussions, all three Waukesha schools would need to act in unison. We are willing to engage in alignment conversations about how to improve the student-athlete experience for our students, but as of now, the answer for Waukesha West continues to be the Classic 8 Conference.”

Brookfield Central Athletic Director Todd Sobrilsky isn’t worried about his school – or Brookfield East – being moved out of the Greater Metro Conference. But with Wauwatosa East and West seeking to align – and all the other movement in the works – Sobrilsky is realistic.

“It’ll be an interesting process,” said Sobrilsky, who spent five years as the athletic director at Beaver Dam, an original member of the Little Ten. “I don’t believe it will happen overnight. I’m guessing two or three years down the road we’ll be in the middle of trying to figure things out.

“The WIAA is in one of those rock-and hard- place decisions. Whatever they do, somebody’s not going to like it. The whole area will be involved.”


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