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Bye, Big Eight? Football proposal creates districts

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THOMAS J. MILLER
July 23, 2009

The Big Eight Conference, along with the rest of the state football conferences, would be eliminated by 2010 if a proposal by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association is approved.


Under the proposal, which is on the WIAA Web site, conferences would be eliminated in favor of districts in football only.


Todd Clark, the director of communications and advanced media for the WIAA, said the proposal has been in the works for a couple of months. Clark said officials at the April annual meeting brought up the issue of uneven school enrollments in conferences.


Other problems include leagues with odd-numbered teams have difficulty scheduling nonconference games, and the three six-team conferences have to schedule four nonconference games.


A suggestion that all schools be included in the playoffs also was discussed, but this proposal does not address that issue.


Joe Dye, Janesville Parker’s head football coach, said there is overwhelming consent among state coaches against allowing all schools into the football playoffs.


“There’s clear sentiment among members against all-play,” Dye said Thursday night.


Clark said the draft is a starting point for those involved in high-school football.


“The proposal is up there to get the discussion going,” Clark said.


Janesville Craig and Janesville Parker would be in the eight-team district that includes Beloit Memorial, Burlington, Kettle Moraine, Mukwonago, Muskego and Waukesha South.


Under the proposal, the first week of the football season would be used for any traditional or historical games against non-district teams.


All teams would play at least nine games. The top four teams in each division would advance to the playoffs in Week 9. The teams that finish five through eight would play another non-qualify team that finished five through eight in a non-playoff game.


“In the spirit of competition, those teams playing in that game know it should be a competitive contest,” Dye said.


Coaches would know before the playoffs began who their opponent might be. Districts would be matched through their geographical location, with the No. 1 seed of one district playing the No. 4 seed from the other in the first round of the playoffs.


For Dye, who spends hours researching possible playoff opponents, this change would be welcomed.


“You’re not going to have to film 20 different teams in a weekend,” Dye said. “It brings some sanity to the madness.”


Unlike present conference alignments, enrollments would dictate what teams are in what districts. Travel times take a backseat to enrollments.


“You have to travel more, yes,” Clark said. “But say you have to travel from Superior to Stevens Point, you’ll only have to do that once in two years.”


The proposal will have to go through several committees. The earliest the plan could be approved would be at the January Board of Control meeting. If that happens, the plan would go into effect next season.


Dye said he is not prepared to give a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” to the proposal. He got the first review of the plan at a state association district representatives meeting Saturday morning at Oshkosh.


He then began his football camp Monday.


But he is not shocked that Janesville schools could be removed from the Big Eight Conference.


“I have long said to Janesville fans, that in some form, Janesville and Beloit could end up on an island (off from Madison schools).


“You look at the growth in Waunakee. I’ve said if we’re sitting here long enough, we would end up playing Muskego, Waukesha West and Muskego. I never thought Burlington would be in there.”


Dye also said the proposal calls for reviews every two years on district alignments.


“When they rebracket, we could be with the Kenosha schools,” he said.


Dye is going into his 17th season as Parker head coach. He realizes the WIAA is trying to make football an even playing field for all schools.


“There are some Division 4 schools in Division 3 conferences,” Dye said. “They (those teams) literally know they don’t have a chance of making the playoffs. The whole membership has to be evaluated.”


Dye also said that only the varsity teams would be affected by the district proposal. Freshman and junior varsity football teams would continue to play among the conference teams they presently play.


“One of the biggest upsides to the plan is that there would no longer be any 4-4 teams in the playoffs,” Dye said. “It would improve the level of qualifiers in the playoff field.”


District proposals

These are the district alignments for local and area school football teams that would be implemented under the WIAA proposal.


District 1


-- Beloit Memorial, Burlington, Janesville Craig, Janesville Parker, Kettle Moraine, Mukwonago, Muskego and Waukesha West.


-- Madison East, Madison La Follette, Madison Memorial, Madison West, Middleton, Oconomowoc, Sun Prairie and Verona.


District 2


-- Lake Geneva Badger, Elkhorn, Fort Atkinson, Waterford, Waukesha North, Westosha Central and Wilmot.


District 3


-- Edgerton, Evansville, Jefferson, Lodi, Madison Edgewood, McFarland, Monroe and Mount Horeb/Barneveld.


-- Big Foot, Cudahy, Delavan-Darien, East Troy, Pewaukee, Saint Francis, Union Grove and Whitewater.


Division 6


-- Brookfield Academy, Johnson Creek, Lake Country Lutheran, Oakfield, Racine Lutheran, The Hope School, Wayland Academy and Williams Bay.



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