WIAA football proposal focused around safety

Several area high school football programs could be on the move in the coming year.

The WIAA is trying to align schools with similar enrollments to even the playing field when it comes to the number of athletes out for football.

“We have been asking for this for a long time,” said Aquinas football coach Tom Lee.

Onalaska football coach Matt Schiebel said football requires 20-25 athletes just to field a team.

“It’s a completely different animal than any other sport,” Schiebel said.

Under the current Mississippi Valley Conference, Aquinas High School is the smallest school with 289 students. The average enrollment of the conference is 814.

In the Coulee conference, Luther is the smallest school with 229. The average enrollment is 371.

“If they have 50 kids on their team and we have 25 on a varsity team, it’s tough,” Schiebel said.

The new conference alignment would put Aquinas and Luther with Mineral Point, Cuba City, Darlington, Fennimore, Iowa Grant and Lancaster.

Fennimore would be the closest opponent at 79 miles away.

“Anything that benefits our players and creates a safer playing environment, for them we are all for it and we are going to support it as best we can,” said Matt Schneider, Aquinas activities director.

Lee said the school is willing to trade the cost of more travel to keep players safe.

“I think it is just part of the cost of doing business,” Lee said.

The past two seasons have been difficult for the Aquinas Blugolds.

The team has one win in the last two seasons, including a game they had to forfeit because of injuries.

“I don’t know if I could have looked myself in the mirror if we would have played that game with 19 healthy players and most of them were sophomores and freshman that may not have been ready,” Lee said. “It was the worst day of my football life, but it was the right thing to do.”

Under the new proposal, Aquinas and Luther would see an average conference enrollment drop to 141 students, giving teams a more level playing field.

“They are playing both ways versus teams that are selective. That for us that’s a pretty important thing,” said Joel Baminec, Onalaska Luther athletic director.

Other schools affected with this new alignment are Black River Falls, Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau, Arcadia, Viroqua and Westby.

The proposal will be revisited in March and would not take affect until the 2019 season.

PROPOSED CONFIGURATION

Conference A – 8 schools
Aquinas – 289 (enrollment)
Cuba City – 238
Darlington – 207
Fennimore – 238
Iowa-Grant – 172
Lancaster – 270
Luther – 222
Mineral Point – 199

Conference B – 8 schools
Arcadia – 361
Dodgeville – 421
Platteville – 430
Prairie du Chien – 365
Richland Center – 386
River Valley – 430
Viroqua – 365
Westby – 339

Conference C – 8 schools
Adams-Friendship – 468
Black River Falls – 518
Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau – 423

Mauston – 507
Nekoosa – 354
Wautoma – 409
Westfield Area – 296
Wisconsin Dells – 421

Mississippi Valley Conference – 7 schools
Holmen – 1137
La Crosse Central – 1095
La Crosse Logan – 796
Onalaska – 917
Sparta – 835
Tomah – 942
West Salem – 506

Six Rivers Conference – 8 schools
Benton/Scales Mound – 70 + 59 = 129
Black Hawk – 99
Boscobel – 233
Pecatonica/Argyle – 115 + 101 = 216
Potosi/Cassville – 119 + 73 – 192
River Ridge – 171
Shullsburg – 117
Southwestern – 167

Ridge & Valley Conference – 9 schools
Belmont – 99
De Soto – 152
Highland – 82
Ithaca – 130

Kickapoo/La Farge – 169 + 65 = 234
North Crawford – 138

Riverdale – 152
Wauzeka-Steuben/Seneca – 105 + 93 = 198
Wonewoc-Center/Weston – 109 + 80 = 189