EDITOR'S NOTE: The 8-player football-only conference alignment was revised and changes were approved at the March Board of Control meeting - See Release
STEVENS POINT, Wis. – The Wisconsin Football Coaches Association and the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association released a revised football-only conference alignment proposal for the 2020 season Friday.
The WFCA and WIAA released the first consideration of a football-only conference plan for membership review in July, 2018. Input from member schools, an updated list of co-op programs, and the transition of programs from 11-player to 8-player status warranted the revision.
Revised Football-Only Conference Alignments
The objectives of the plan are to bring uniformity to the number of schools affiliated with a conference and to the number of conference games played by each program, as well as to develop a process for schools to request relief from its conference affiliation.
The WIAA Board of Control and Executive Staff have encountered persistent and growing sentiments from member schools throughout the state requesting relief for football. A number of factors identify why a football-only conference alignment plan is needed and appropriate, including disparities in number of conference games relating to playoff qualification, difficulties in scheduling nonconference games, school enrollment and competitive disparities within conferences, the formation of co-op programs, the implementation of an 8-player football tournament, and programs dropping varsity season schedules because of low participation.
After receiving significant support from school athletic directors at the 2017 Area Meetings, the WIAA Board of Control requested the WFCA to develop a plan addressing the concerns expressed by the member schools seeking football conference relief. Following months of work by an ad hoc committee of WFCA Executive Board and members of the WIAA Executive Staff, the revised plan addresses the concerns expressed to the Board and Staff without altering the popular playoff structure.
The design of the plan is to place all 11-player football programs into uniform conferences of eight teams, but with some seven-team leagues (along with nine-team conferences depending on total number of schools offering football). The objective of placing programs into conferences is to keep as many conferences together as possible while reaching the stated goals of the proposal. The plan forms conference affiliations for varsity-level teams only. Sub-varsity scheduling and alignment will be determined by schools or conferences.
Conferences that feature seven teams will be provided a designated companion conference that will require bye week crossovers in Weeks 3-9, which will count in the conference standings for both teams. As a result, all teams in the state will play seven conference games between Week 3 and Week 9. Weeks 1 and 2 will be open dates for schools to schedule non-conference contests.
A process for schools requesting relief of their assigned conferences is built into the new conference realignment process passed by the Board on Jan. 30, which features a two-year cycle for review. The process assigns a committee to review official written requests from member schools received by Dec. 1 in only odd-numbered years and then provide a recommendation to the WIAA Board of Control, who has final determination in all realignment matters. Changes will be implemented in the even-numbered years.
Once implemented, there would be no changes until the next even-numbered year; so all conference designations would apply for a minimum of two years. Procedures will also be in place to address situations where a school drops football, enters into a new co-op, transitions to 8-player, or when new programs are added.
The revised plan moves a relatively small percentage of the programs playing 11-player football into different conferences. The WFCA sought input from members and has contacted most of the schools impacted by a change in conference affiliation. A 2017 WFCA survey showed more than 65 percent of coaches favored developing football-only conferences over the status quo.
Another notable aspect of the plan provides the opportunity for existing conference commissioners to serve leagues whenever possible and to appoint new commissioners for any re-organized conferences.
The plan will be presented to the Board for first consideration at its March 1 meeting.
The membership of the WIAA oversees interscholastic athletic programs for 511 senior high schools and 46 junior high/middle level schools in its membership. It sponsors 27 championship tournament series for boys and girls in 2018-19. For more information, please contact the WIAA office at (715) 344-8580.
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