Rock Valley Conference football will have a new look in 2020—both on the field and on the sidelines.
Former Badger South Conference schools Monroe and Madison Edgewood are joining the Rock Valley for football only, while former conference schools Clinton, Brodhead/Juda, Walworth Big Foot and Beloit Turner are headed to new conferences in football.
Turner and Big Foot join the eight-team Capitol Conference; Brodhead/Juda moves to the seven-team SWC, and Clinton joins the eight-team Eastern Suburban.
The coaching carousel also continues in the Rock Valley.
Longtime coaches Ron Grovesteen of Evansville and Mike Gregory of Edgerton resigned.
Whitewater and East Troy will welcome new head coaches to the sidelines. Jefferson’s Steve Gee and McFarland’s Paul Ackley are now the deans of Rock Valley coaches with more than 25 years of experience between them.
Gregory said Grovesteen’s resignation leaves a big void.
“The one thing you could always say about Ron Grovesteen-coached teams was that they always rose to the occasion,” Gregory said. “It seems the bigger the game, the better they played.
“You don’t win all the championships that Evansville did and stay near the top of the conference standings for as long as they did without doing something right.
“Those are big shoes to fill.”
Monroe and Edgewood join the Rock Valley after finding limited success the last decade in the Badger South.
Edgewood is 7-29 over the last four seasons as lower than expected enrollment figures hurt the Crusaders in a sport where numbers are key.
Last season, Edgewood had an enrollment of 497. Badger South member Watertown had an enrollment of 1,302. The second smallest school last year in the Badger South was Monroe with 723.
The Cheesemakers were 2-7 in 2018 but bounced back in a big way last year in going 7-5 and winning two Division 3 playoffs games before losing to eventual state champion DeForest.
“I think Monroe has to be the favorite in the Rock heading into the season just based on what they did last year and who they have coming back,” Gregory said.
“The bottom line in all of this, and it’s no disrespect to the Rock Valley, is that Edgewood and Monroe have been playing up a level of competition based on where they’re coming from. It’s going to take awhile for the Rock teams to adjust.”
And although the disparity in enrollment-size has been addressed by the statewide conference realignments the WIAA put into place prior to the 2020 football season, the playing field remains uneven.
In the Rock Valley for instance, McFarland is now the largest school with approximately 750 students, with Monroe right behind. Edgewood and Edgerton are both under 500 in enrollment.
“That means McFarland and Monroe have about 125 more boys to play football than we do or Edgewood does,” Gregory said. “That’s still a pretty big gap.
“But I understand what the WIAA did, and the fact that no matter what decisions they made on conference realignment, not everybody was going to be happy about it. I know Delavan-Darien really wants to get into the Rock Valley, and with their enrollment right now, they’d be right about where McFarland and Monroe are.”
Although Gregory won’t be on the sidelines this fall for the first time in over 35 years, he will be keeping close tabs on Edgerton and the rest of the Rock Valley. He hopes there’s a season and that the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t cancel it.
“I don’t think the WIAA has to make any decisions right now,” Gregory said. “There’s no use pushing any buttons now until we know as much as we can.
“I really think there’s going to be football, though. We seem to be trending in the right direction. Maybe if nothing else, teams would cancel their two nonconference games and just play a conference schedule starting in what would’ve been Week 3 of the season.”
Whatever the case might be, Rock Valley Conference football will have a much different look in 2020.