As part of a revised Conference Realignment process, a total of 15 schools have requested relief for all sports except for football, which has its own two-year statewide realignment cycle.
The deadline for schools to submit realignment requests was December 1st.
This is the first year of a revised process that will utilize a Conference Realignment Task Force to review and provide recommendations to the WIAA Board of Control, which retains the final authority over all conference placement matters.
For many years, a single staff member, most recently now-retired Deb Dinkel, oversaw the Conference Realignment process. At the fall Area Meetings, schools were encouraged to stand up and voice their requests for relief, which would kick-start any reviews by Dinkel.
This process came under significant fire in recent years, with some criticizing the WIAA for a lack of transparency and consistency. Upon Dinkel's retirement from the WIAA at the end of the 2017-18 school year, the Association placed a moratorium on Conference Realignment requests (except in situations of 100% agreement by all parties) to review its procedures.
A Task Force was formed and looked at the history of realignment in the WIAA, identified areas of concern with the previous process, and prioritized areas in need of solutions.
From that came the current process, which utilizes a Task Force for review of realignment requests.
According to WIAA guidelines, the timeline and process for these realignment requests moving forward will be handled over the next three months:
-- December 9 - Member schools that may be impacted by a realignment application are encouraged to complete a “Member School Feedback Form” located on the Conference Realignment page of the WIAA website prior to December 9.
-- December 11 - The Conference Realignment Task Force will convene on December 11 to review, prioritize and begin preliminary realignment solutions.
-- December 12 - Schools applying for realignment consideration will be notified of the results of the review.
-- January 8 - The Task Force will meet to hear appeals from schools that had their requests denied and receive input from member schools impacted by the results of the review. The committee will modify and finalize solutions to submit to the Board of Control for consideration and communicate those modifications and solutions to the membership.
-- March 6 - The realignment solutions will be introduced to the Board of Control on March 6, with the Board’s final consideration on April 21, 2020.
The 15 schools requesting realignment for all sports (except football) are: Ashland, Campbellsport, Cristo Rey Jesuit, Delavan-Darien, Eastbrook Academy, Faith Christian (Williams Bay), St. Anthony, St. Croix Falls, Salam, Tenor, University Lake School, Veritas, West De Pere, Westfield and White Lake.
Full information, including participation numbers, enrollment history and projections, proposed solutions, and other supporting documentation can be found on the WIAA site by clicking here (select 2019-20 school year and non-football in the dropdowns).
Perhaps the most significant request involves West De Pere's inquiry to leave the Bay Conference and join the FRCC. The Phantoms expressed concerns about moving to the FRCC for football just six months ago, but now are looking to make the move for all sports. In the school's supporting documentation as part of the realignment request, the reasons cited for the request included a rapidly growing enrollment, a desire to begin or renew rivalries with local schools, and current struggles in the Bay Conference to find contests and competition for all levels of athletic programs.
"We also believe that by leaving the Bay Conference we will provide relief to all of our fellow conference members as we have no desire to be the biggest school with the strongest demographics that are perceived to be 'picking on' the schools that are in a different place with their growth and demographics," the application read.
As part of the application process, schools must provide recommended solutions as well impacts statements for other schools or leagues that would be impacted. A singular move of West De Pere to the FRCC would create an 11-team FRCC and leave the Bay with just seven teams. According to supporting documents, a suggested solution for the Bay would be to join with the North Eastern Conference for a 17-school "super-conference" that could split into two divisions based on the sport. In FRCC meeting minutes, the league discussed the possible impact of adding West De Pere, including travel times and the reductions in non-conference contests that would be available, but ultimately did not officially provide an endorsement for or against the move as of yet.
Also requesting realignment is Delavan-Darien, a school that has struggled across all sports in recent years as a significantly smaller school in the Southern Lakes. Included with their suggested accommodation is a move for the Comets to the Rock Valley, McFarland from the Rock Valley to the Badger-South, and Fort Atkinson from the Badger-South to the Southern Lakes, a league the Blackhawks were in up until about ten years ago when they were moved due to program struggles.
Campbellsport is request a move from the East Central to the Flyway, though is unable to provide a solution to the East Central Conference going from eight schools to seven.
Westfield requests to join the Trailways Conference from the South Central, though has not received support in that move from either the South Central or Trailways schools.
Saint Croix Falls has already moved from the Lakeland to the Heart O'North in football, and as a larger school in the Lakeland, would like to move to the Heart O'North for all sports.
Voted out of the Lake Superior Conference (which consists of Minnesota schools) for the 2020-21 school year, Ashland had discussions with the Great Northern Conference to join the league and had support from Athletic Directors, but has indicated that the league's principals are expected to reject it. As an alternative, the school is requesting to join the Heart O'North.
White Lake is requesting to leave the Northern Lakes Conference for the Central Wisconsin Conference North Division.
Seven schools currently in the Indian Trails Conference are requesting to start a new league to reduce travel and provide better competition. The proposed Lake City Conference would include Cristo Rey Jesuit, Salam, Saint Anthony, St. Augustine Prep, Faith Christian (Williams Bay), Tenor, Veritas, Early View Academy, Eastbrook Academy, and University Lake School.
Travis Wilson serves as the WisSports.net General Manager, Football Editor, and contributing writer for other parts of the site. Wilson was selected as part of the Sports 40 Under 40 list by Coach & AD Magazine and the National High School Athletic Coaches Association for 2019. The Wisconsin Football Coaches Association (WFCA) named Travis the 2015 recipient of the Dave McClain Distinguished Service Award. He currently serves on the WFCA Executive Board as the Website and Communications Director and is a member of the Executive Board of the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association. A graduate of Richland Center High School and Mount Mercy College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Travis was a three-sport athlete in high school (football, baseball, basketball) and currently resides in Reedsburg. You can follow him on Twitter at @travisWSN.