STEVENS POINT, Wis. – The Wisconsin Football Coaches Association and the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association released a football-only conference alignment proposal for the 2020 season to member schools Monday.
The objective of the plan is to form a football-only conference model that brings uniformity to the number of schools affiliated with a conference and the number of conference games played by each team.
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 plan of action 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.
The WIAA Board of Control requested the WFCA to develop a plan addressing the concerns expressed by the member schools seeking relief. The concept received significant support from school administrators at the 2017 Area Meetings. After months of work by an ad hoc committee of WFCA Executive Board and members of the WIAA Executive Staff, the proposal serves as a statewide response to 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 conference alignments of mostly eight-team, but some seven-team leagues (along with nine-team conferences depending on total number of schools offering football). The objective in placement into conferences was to keep as many conferences together as possible while reaching the stated goals of the proposal. The proposal 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 plan with a two-year cycle for review. The plan recommends a committee to review official written requests from member schools received by Feb. 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 team drops football, enters into a new co-op, transitions to 8-player, or when new teams are added.
The plan also recommends that all requests for relief would require a letter stating consensus approval of the school’s head coach, athletic director, principal, and district superintendent or president. The request must provide rationale for moving conferences, as well as a plan for a proposed change.
The plan as proposed, moves 18 percent of the teams playing 11-player football into a different conference. 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.