High school football in Wisconsin is going to have a different look in 2020. The WIAA Board of Control unanimously passed a state-wide football-only conference realignment on Tuesday.
The approval process took about two years. The goal was to re-do the entire state by divisions for scheduling relief purposes.
“The nice thing about it taking some time is that it was transparent,” WIAA Deputy Director Wade Labecki said. “We kept the schools informed.”
The realignment will change the look of conferences state-wide. There are currently leagues made up of 11 teams, ten, nine, eight, and some with five – making playoff qualifications not uniform. In 2020, 35 conferences will have eight teams and 14 will have seven teams. ..
“The coaches wanted seven qualifying games to get into playoffs,” Labecki said. “It pretty much guarantees all of our schools will have conference games or playoff-qualifying games in weeks 3-7.”
The WIAA and Wisconsin Football Coaches Association received full support by conveying an even playing field across the Badger state for all programs.
“I’d like to see that all the football programs have a full schedule,” Labecki said. “They’re not looking in Illinois and Michigan for games. We want our member schools to play our member schools.”
A few smaller schools in the area will be impacted, like Wausau East, who used to be an Independent.
“We wanted to see something done and we might have been a little bit of the front-runners on really giving that indication that there was a problem,” Wausau East Athletic Director Michael Pernsteiner said. “It was refreshing to see that they were taking an approach that looked at geographies and enrollments.”
The Lumberjacks will join the VFA-West with SPASH, D.C. Everest, Wausau West, Wisconsin Rapids, Marshfield, Appleton West and Hortonville – with a chance to compete for something at the end of the year.
“Reigniting some of those traditional rivalries and being apart of a conference is big,” Pernsteiner said. “You see that in other sports’ seasons like basketball and hockey so it’s nice to get that back together with football.”
8-man football teams are beginning to ask for the same form of realignment; the WIAA plans to address that this summer.