Football to cut to eight games

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Dave Wedeward
January 28, 2011

It still has to wait a year, but the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association (WFCA) finally is getting what it wanted—at least for a year.

After a lengthy debate, the WIAA Board of Control has voted to cut the regular season for high school football from nine to eight games in 2012, thus avoiding the early Aug. 1 starting date that has upset coaches and school administrators throughout the state.

The objective in any plan—whether it be an early starting date, eight-game regular season or later finish to the playoffs—is to avoid the long-standing three games in eight days at the start of the postseason.

The WIAA board voted last June to move the start of 2011 practice up five days and play as many as three games before Sept. 1. That plan still will be in effect this fall.

WFCA members voted unanimously in many conferences against that plan in a statewide poll late last summer, citing a major intrusion on summer activities, jobs and vacations that would be caused by the early starting date.

So now, the board has reacted and approved the eight-game regular season, rather than an Aug. 1 start of practice, but only for the 2012 season. That option was chosen over a more-recent proposal from the coaches’ advisory committee to extend the playoffs into Thanksgiving weekend.

At the moment, the decision is for the nine-game schedule to return in 2013. However, the board has instructed the WIAA executive staff to form an ad hoc committee and address the football schedule beyond 2012.

“It’s nice to see some common sense come through,’’ Edgerton coach Mike Gregory, one of the many strong opponents of the early date, said of the WIAA’s decision. “That would have been a disaster, and this is very much a good thing.

“It shows there was enough heat and that a lot of people were upset—not just coaches, but also administrators—with the early starting date.

“And I like the ninth- and 10th-game concept of a pairing similar conferences and (non-playoff) teams with similar records,” Gregory said. “You’re going to have some competitive games in that situation and a win-win situation for everybody.”

Two state conferences with 10 members apiece don’t necessarily win in the cutback to eight regularly scheduled games. One of them is the Big Eight, which presently plays a complete round-robin schedule of nine conference games.

“It’s an interesting deal for a 10-team league, and I’m not sure how it’s going to work out,” said Janesville Parker’s Joe Dye, the dean of Big Eight football coaches. “At a time when you’re expanding sports opportunities, it’s hard to look at a cutback.

“We’re going to have to go back and visit our options and maybe form a better option,” he said. “I don’t know how that’s going to go.

“But I do know that we’re not going to be starting football on Aug. 1 (in 2012). And that’s in the best interest of student athletes.”

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