WIAA unanimously passes football conference realignment

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On Tuesday afternoon in Stevens Point, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) unanimously approved a plan to realign football conferences statewide beginning with the 2020 season.

"You had conferences of eleven teams, ten teams, nine teams, eight, all the way down to five teams, it was all over the place,” said Doug Sarver, President of the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association. “Then their conference games were all over the place."

The chief goal of the vote was to create conferences of either seven or eight teams across the state.

Sarver explained: "What we're trying to do with this objective is bring uniformity to the number of teams in the conferences, and the number of conference games that they play."

The measure was met with overwhelming approval statewide, but not by Owen-Withee high school. Under the plan, the Blackhawks will move from the Cloverwood Conference to the Marawood Conference, something they say doesn't add up.

"The problem we've got is in two years we'll be down to 142 kids, 68 boys in (grades) 9-12, and if we get a third of those kids we're at 20-22 kids,” said Bob Houts, district administrator for the school district of Owen-Withee. “That's hard to do when you're running up against some schools that are running 60-70 kids out for football."

Which creates a murky future for a program that won the Division Seven state title in 2014.

"I think the two most viable options are we'll either look for someone to co-op with or we will have to go to eight-man,” said Houts. “You know that's not our choice, we would much rather play 11-man football, but you know reality with those numbers is that maybe eight-man is our future."

However, Owen-Withee knows the WIAA simply followed through on what the majority wanted.

Houts said: "You know when you've got 370-something schools that are looking to play 11-man football, and you've got 15 schools that are appealing their placement, you've done a nice job, you've done a great job, a miraculous job."