Week one of the 2012 football season begins with games this week. The 8-game season features one less game than in previous years and marks the return of reduced-player football as 16 teams embark on the season featuring 8-player teams.
The return of the offering is intended to assist smaller schools maintain football in their schools and communities.
The 16 programs playing 8-player schedules are Abundant Life/St. Ambrose, Birchwood, Bruce, Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah, Green Bay N.E.W. Lutheran, Luck, New Auburn, Northwood/Solon Springs, Prairie Farm, Oneida Nation, Siren, Stockbridge, Three Lakes, Valley Christian, Wayland Academy and Winter.
Schools with a three-year enrollment average of 200 or less are eligible for an end-of-the-season jamboree scheduled in Week 11, coinciding with Level 3 of the football playoffs. All but three schools playing an 8-player schedule this season qualifies for the jamboree. Northwood/Solon Springs, Three Lakes and Wayland Academy each have three-year enrollment averages over 200.
The WIAA sponsored reduced-player football prior to the advent of the football playoff system in 1976. There were 78 schools that fielded reduced-player squads in the late 1950s, 72 of which were 8-player teams and six that were 6-player. However, that number dwindled to just a few programs by 1969.
The 8-game schedule is a result of the Board of Control’s approval of a football coaches’ recommendation to begin the season one week later to avoid an earlier start to the season. An earlier start date in 2011 was necessary to avoid conducting three games in a 10-day period at the end of the regular season and the start of the football playoffs. The season will return to a nine-game schedule with the earlier starting date in 2013.