The WIAA struck down a proposal that would have moved West Salem from the Coulee Conference to the Mississippi Valley Conference.
West Salem was strongly opposed to the move. At the WIAA's Board of Control Meeting, Panthers representatives argued their enrollment is smaller than the schools they would have competed against in the MVC. On the other hand, MVC representatives spoke in favor of it.
"We always wanted an 8-team league, and that's been one of my goals," MVC Commissioner Terry Erickson said. "I feel deflated because we aren't able to achieve that."
After a private caucus, the WIAA voted 6-2-1 to keep the Coulee and MVC 7-team leagues.
"I feel very good," West Salem Activities Director LeRoy Krall said. "This was about providing the best opportunity to our kids, and I really, truly believe this will do that."
"West Salem has been a long-time standing member of the Coulee Conference and to be able to hold on to them, it means a lot to us," said Coulee Conference Commissioner Bruce Kaiser. "Seven teams is a lot easier to work with than six."
Conversation about high school conference realignment is largely driven by difficulties in football scheduling, according to activities directors. As News 8 first reported last fall, Prairie du Chien expressed interest in leaving the Southwest Wisconsin Conference in part due to trouble scheduling non-conference football games.
"Travel has always been a big issue, and finding games is a big issue," Erickson said.
The WIAA's vote addresses this issue by mandating a football scheduling partnership between the 7-team Coulee and 6-team SWC. There will be two crossover non-conference football games beginning in 2014.
"We've never been opposed to helping out the Southwest Conference and to mandate crossover games with the Southwest Conference is just fine with us," Krall said. "We've played them before, it's one long trip a year. Not going to be a problem."
"The board really has given the schools the opportunity to resolve it themselves," WIAA Associate Director Deb Hauser said.
The WIAA will listen to the conferences' proposals at its May 17 meeting.
"We kicked around several ideas throughout the fall and winter anyways, and we believe it's really quite feasible to make it work," Kaiser said.
Any other modifications to this proposal may also be discussed May 17.