Football plan puts rivalries on ice

Travel time would increase for Port Washington and Grafton, but proposal to start in 2020 is in early stages
Ozaukee Press staff

A newly proposed varsity football conference realignment that would take effect in 2020 has Port Washington and Grafton heading to new conferences.
The WIAA this week released a plan concocted by an ad hoc committee of WIAA Executive Staff members and the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Executive Board that would address input from members schools.
Issues schools have brought up regarding football include a disparity in the number of conference games for playoff qualification, difficulties in scheduling nonconference games, school enrollment, competitive disparities in conferences, co-op program formations, an eight-player football tournament and programs dropping varsity schedules due to low participation, according to a statement from the WIAA.
The new plan’s design is to put all 11-player football programs into conferences with seven, eight or nine teams.
Port Washington would move to the East Central Conference with all of its opponents to the north.
“For us, we’re playing teams that would be close to our enrollment, which I like,” said Port football coach John Bunyan.
With 767 students, Port would be the second largest school of the eight-team league. Plymouth has 784. Sheboygan Falls is the smallest at 500.
But the conference includes Berlin, 67 miles and a 97-minute drive away from Port High, along with Winneconne (65 miles, 90 minutes) and Ripon (75 miles, 87 minutes).
“That might be the downfall, but that’s not an excuse not to have fair play,” Bunyan said.
“It’s not going to be just us that’s going to have to travel.”
Grafton faces less travel than Port with a proposed move to the Woodland East Conference. Most schools are about 25 to 35 minutes to the south.
School sizes range from 1,378 to 721 students. Grafton, with 745, would still be on the small side but closer to its foes than the ones it faces in the North Shore Conference, eight of which eclipse 1,000 students.
Grafton Athletic Director Kevin Moore said the proposal is still in the stage of information gathering and that more discussion will occur at regional meetings in the fall.
“It’s something new to look at and to talk to our coaches and community about,” he said.
If the proposal goes through, the Pirates and Black Hawks would lose 10-minute drives to games and the rivalries with each other and Cedarburg.
But Port and Grafton would be in eight-team conferences, unlike the 10-team North Shore. That allows for two nonconference games.
Port Washington Athletic Director Thad Gabrielse said he would be contacting Grafton and Cedarburg to try to maintain those rivalries. Port and Cedarburg each season play for a traveling trophy called the Silver Sailboat, which has been around for decades.
Moore said he would be interested in maintaining those rivalries as well, but the Woodland has two divisions and schedules may include cross-over games.
Since football is the only sport in which all teams don’t qualify for the playoffs, Gabrielse said the debate will continue.
“When things don’t work in your conference from a football aspect, you may lean toward conference realignment,” he said.
The proposal would only impact varsity games. Junior varsity and freshman programs could maintain their old conferences or switch to new ones.
The Big East Conference would remain unchanged with its nine teams, including Cedar Grove-Belgium and Ozaukee.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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