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Prep football photo: Lodi celebrates its 2017 Division 4 state championship

Lodi head coach, Dave Puls, holds up the first place trophy, as Lodi wins the WIAA Division 4 state high school championship football game 17-10 in overtime versus St. Croix Central on Thursday, 11/16/17, at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Football Coaches Association on Friday released an updated listing of its proposed statewide football-only conference realignment plan.

The release came after a Wednesday meeting with WIAA leadership, during which several minor tweaks to the original alignment plan were considered at the request of participating schools, and some were approved.

If the plan is approved at the WIAA’s annual meeting on Wednesday, April 17, it would take effect during the 2020 season.

Under the plan, 49 conferences would be created for football only. Of that list, 33 conferences would have eight teams, playing seven conference games in Weeks 3 through 9 of the regular season. Sixteen conferences would have seven teams, and would play one crossover game against a school from a neighboring seven-team conference to fill what would be a conference bye week.

In all instances, the first two weeks of the season would be reserved for non-conference games of each individual school’s choosing.

The proposal was made to create conferences of the same size across the state, instead of the arrangements now that range from 10-school conferences to five-school leagues. Teams must have a .500 conference record or better to qualify for postseason play.

While making the changes, the committee also was able to entertain requests for alignment changes based on competitive balance.

“It is understood that some schools may not be thrilled with their placement, but the WIAA will have procedures in place to handle requests for relief going forward,” the WFCA wrote in a press release.

The WIAA will consider enrollment shifts every odd-numbered year and has the power to realign conferences as needed, in order to best maintain enrollment, geographical and competitive balance. Any changes would take effect every even-numbered year.

A preliminary look at the proposed 2020 alignment still shows significant differences in enrollments between schools in some of the seven- and eight-team groupings.

Of the 49 conferences, the average difference in enrollment between the largest and smallest schools would be 423.4 students, or 87.2 percent.

Six of the conferences would have a difference of more than 1,000 enrollment between the largest and smallest schools, led by the Milwaukee City Blackbourn at 1,588 students (350.6 percent) between Milwaukee Pulaski/Arts/Carmen (2,041) and Career Tech (453). The Trailways Conference would have a 211.8 percent difference between Delafield St. John’s NW (396, actually 198 because it’s a boys-only school) and Cambria-Friesland (127). The Fox River Classic 1 would have a difference of 1,233 students (129.7 percent) between Green Bay Preble (2,184) and West De Pere (951).

Further complicating matters would be the growing possibility that smaller schools could opt out of 11-player football altogether to join the growing trend of eight-player football — which will have its first official WIAA championship game this fall. Another potential problem would remain: At times, schools decide — often in mid-summer — that they will not have enough players to field a varsity program that season.

According to the WIAA news release, procedures would be put in place to handle specific developments such as those.

A look at how conferences in the area and region would be affected, for football only:

Big Eight

The conference will return to an eight-team lineup, with Janesville Craig and Janesville Parker moving to the Badger Large Conference. The enrollment range will go from Sun Prairie’s 2,389 to Madison La Follette’s 1,572.

Badger Large

Craig and Parker would be the largest schools (by enrollment) in the new league, by a considerable margin. Also in the Badger Large would be Watertown, Waunakee, Oregon, Milton, Beaver Dam and DeForest. Enrollments would range from Craig’s 1,865 to DeForest’s 1,051.

Badger Small

Madison Edgewood and Monroe would get a reprieve from the rigors of the Badger Conference, both joining the Rock Valley for football only. That would leave Baraboo, Mount Horeb/Barneveld, Reedsburg, Sauk Prairie and Portage from the Badger North and Monona Grove, Stoughton and Fort Atkinson from the Badger South. The enrollments would range from Monona Grove’s 1,049 (two fewer than DeForest) to Portage’s 783.

Capitol 1

Both newly proposed Capitol conferences will provide a mish-mash between three current leagues. In the Capitol 1, Marshall, Cambridge and Waterloo would remain from the Capitol South; Clinton would move over from the Rock Valley; and Dodgeland, Palmyra-Eagle, Markesan and Pardeeville would join from the Trailways Large. The enrollments would range from Clinton’s 342 to Pardeeville’s 217.

Capitol 2

Lodi, Lake Mills, Watertown Luther Prep, Columbus and Lakeside Lutheran would remain from the Capitol North, with Poynette departing for the South Central. Also, Walworth Big Foot and Beloit Turner would join from the Rock Valley; and Horicon/Hustisford would move from the Trailways Large. The enrollment range would run from Big Foot’s 499 to Horicon/Hustisford’s 378.

Rock Valley

Remaining in the Rock Valley would be McFarland, Jefferson, East Troy, Whitewater, Evansville and Edgerton. Monroe and Edgewood would move over from the Badger South. The enrollments would range from McFarland’s 707 to Edgewood’s 486.

Trailways

Delafield St. John’s NW would slide over from the Midwest Classic, joined by current Trailways Small members Deerfield, Johnson Creek, Fall River/Rio, Oshkosh Lourdes, Beaver Dam Wayland, Randolph and Cambria-Friesland. The enrollments would range from Delafield St. John’s NW's 396 (actually 198 because it’s a boys-only school) and Cambria-Friesland's 127.

South Central

The proposed seven-team league would bring in Poynette, from the Capitol North, and the Montello/Princeton/Green Lake co-op, from the Trailways Large. Remaining would be Wisconsin Dells, Mauston, Adams-Friendship, Wautoma and Westfield. The enrollments would range from Mauston’s 507 to Westfield’s 296. One possible issue is Westfield’s regular ability to field a varsity program, which has not always been a sure thing in past years.

Southwest Wisconsin

In this proposed seven-team league, Brodhead/Juda would move over from the Rock Valley, and New Glarus/Monticello would shift west from the Capitol South. Remaining are River Valley, Dodgeville, Platteville, Richland Center and Prairie du Chien. Enrollments would range from River Valley’s 430 and New Glarus/Monticello’s 360. The Southwest Wisconsin would be paired with the South Central for one crossover game per team per season.

Six Rivers

The seven-team conference would range from the Benton co-op’s 266 enrollment to Black Hawk/Warren (Ill.) and its combined enrollment of 160. Also in the league would be Pecatonica/Argyle, Potosi/Cassville, Iowa-Grant, River Ridge and Southwestern. This region of the state could be subject to frequent change, as many schools are considering a long-term future in eight-player football as that WIAA program grows.

SWAL

The new Orfordville Parkview/Albany co-op would top the new seven-team league’s enrollment list (332), with Parkview moving from the Trailways Large and Albany leaving its co-op with Evansville. Belleville would move from the Capitol South, and Lancaster would move from the Southwest Wisconsin Conference. Remaining would be Darlington, Cuba City, Fennimore and the proposed new league’s smallest entry, Mineral Point (199). The SWAL would be paired with the Six Rivers for one crossover game per team per season.

Ridge and Valley

In this proposed seven-team league, Boscobel would move over from the SWAL and would be the largest school (233). Highland would shift from the Six Rivers, Hillsboro would move from the Scenic Bluffs and Wauzeka/Seneca, Riverdale, De Soto and Ithaca would remain. Highland (enrollment 82) is the state’s smallest 11-player football school.

Scenic Bluffs

Onalaska Luther would move over from the Coulee, joined by current members Brookwood, Cashton, Bangor, New Lisbon, Royall and Necedah (inactive last season) in the seven-team league. The enrollments would range from Necedah’s 227 to Royall’s 156. The Scenic Bluffs would be paired with the Ridge and Valley for one crossover game per team per season.

Elsewhere statewide

Fond du Lac and Kimberly would be paired together in the Valley Football Association 2, and Hartland Arrowhead and Muskego would remain in the Classic 8.

Perennial Division 3 power Waukesha Catholic Memorial would move to the Woodland West, and two-time defending champ Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs would stay in the Wisconsin Flyway. Both would remain the smallest schools in their conferences.

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