The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association has voted unanimously to implement statewide football-only conference alignment.
The goal of the measure, which will be implemented next year, is to bring uniformity to conference sizes and scheduling, as reported by CBS affiliate WSAW in Wausau.
"You had conferences of 11 teams, 10 teams, nine teams, eight, all the way down to five teams, it was all over the place. Then their conference games were all over the place," said Doug Sarver, president of the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association, which proposed the change last July. "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."
Conferences of seven to eight should now be common across the state.
While passed with overwhelming support, the change will not be without fallout for certain individual schools. "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, which won the Division Seven state football championship as recently as 2014. "That's hard to do when you're running up against some schools that are running 60-70 kids out for football."
The WIAA's action may fundamentally alter the way Owen-Withee approaches the sport. "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,” Houts said. “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."