Area Football Coaches Share Thoughts on Football Realignment

The WIAA Realignment Task Force has moved forward with plans to realign multiple conferences across the state, and area teams will have reshaped conferences moving forward.
We reached out to area football coaches from the Marawood, CWC, and 8 Man Conferences to get their thoughts on the realignment, with two questions:
1.) How do you see the proposed conference realignment plans helping your school and team?
2.) How do the proposed changes impact area conferences?

How do you see the proposed conference realignment plans helping your school and team?

Jeff Sullivan, Assumption – The biggest change for the realignment was this past fall when we were moved from the Cloverwood to the CWC Small.  With more teams going to 8 man in Division 7, this will get changed again for 2022.  I was told Pittsville is going back to the Marawood, Almond, Owen-Withee, and Thorp are going 8 man, so we will have two 6 team conferences and play two cross over games between the CWC Small and the Marawood.  The move from the Marawood to the newly created Cloverwood was great for us smaller schools back 10 years ago or so.  I don’t see the new alignment for 2022 helping us, but at the same time we are playing football and our kids need football!

Chris Schmitz, Greenwood –  I think the new alignment is great. It brings back some of the old rivalry games we had before. Drive time is shorter for most games as well. This is a very good thing.

Jake Knapmiller, Abbotsford – We are just going to wait it out to see if there is a total shake up.  I think the WIAA will keep the core marawood teams together and that is good for us.  We are hoping that we put ourselves in position to be competitive once again.

Robin Rosemeyer, Gilman – The new alignment brings Gilman back to their Cloverwood/Small Cloverbelt teams that they have previously played in 11 man – with Alma Center Lincoln being an exception.  Travel may be somewhat reduced and some “rivalries” renewed.  I also like that we appear to have built in non-conference games with Central Wisconsin – West teams.

Jim Hagen, Colby – Colby would be ok with the proposed conference realignment along with being paired with the CWC-Small.  That means it would give us a full schedule and we wouldn’t be scrambling to find teams to play like we will be for the upcoming 2021 season.

Paul Michlig, Newman Catholic – From our standpoint, the big difference is that a few more teams in the area are going 8-man and from the time we started playing 4 years ago until this is put in place, it is all about travel and having a local conference. Our trips have been cut in half and having a conference to play in makes a world of difference to keep promoting football in the community. Our enrollment is been pretty steady and looks to continue to be between 120-140 for the future years. We offer a lot of sports, and this gives us the opportunity to continue playing all of them.

KD Stokes, Thorp – I think the proposed conference realignment will be great.  It allows competitive balance across the board.

Ryan Winkler, Marathon –  I am in favor of any plan that will provide our team with a full schedule.  Looking at next year we will be looking for three games to make up for three conference teams that will be going to 8 man next year.  This will be the third year in a row that a team or multiple teams have cancelled on us.

Mark Denniston, Pittsville – The proposed move of Pittsville back to the Marawood Conference for football in 2022 will certainly make it more difficult for us to compete and qualify for the playoffs, as the Marawood will consist of mostly D6 teams with strong football programs. It is likely that at some point in the next few years we will have to take a look at the future direction of our football program and determine the best course for us.

Craig Diederich, Athens –  Athens HS will be transitioning from 11 man football to 8 man. Wherever the WIAA assigns us we will go because we no longer have enough players to compete in 11 man football.

Todd Diethelm, Athens – For Athens our numbers are declining quickly so we don’t have much of a choice but to move to an 8 man conference. If we don’t we would lose our program.  In the future we will hopefully revisit 11 man football.

How do the proposed changes impact area conferences?

Jay Anderson, Auburndale –  To tell you the truth I don’t have much for thoughts on the matter at this time.  Our conference will be very local and that is always good with travel.  I guess that I don’t see that big of an impact from my perspective.  Marawood is a tough conference, along with most of the conferences in Central Wisconsin.  From that perspective, no matter what happens, it will always be a challenge.

Winkler – I think it is too early in the process to look at what changes will be made. There will be teams that don’t approve of the changes, so appeals will happen.

Diedrich – Any realignment will have ripple effects in the area.  We are praying that the fall of 2021 will be played without Covid restrictions, so any resemblance of a normal season will be perceived as a good thing in 2021.

Diethelm – Well, realignment is inevitable with schools moving to 8 man.  As a program we feel bad that we had to make this change and leave the 11 man Marawood conference.

Stokes – After the initial realignment it broke up area conferences but the new proposal will bring back geographic rivalries.

Michlig – If you look at our area, the three big small school conference over the years has been the Central Wisconsin Conference, Marawood Conference, and the Cloverbelt. They have split into two conference in the 2000’s for football, Central Wisconsin Conference Large and Small per say, the Marawood added the Cloverwood, and the Cloverbelt was East and West.

With what is happening, looking at the school and numbers, now it is getting more 60 percent 11-man, 40 percent 8-man, and a few teams sprinkled in that co-op or don’t have football.

So I would say that for the area it really has made a huge, huge difference with the changes.

Denniston – With the number of teams moving to 8-man football or co-op teams, football conferences are likely to change frequently over the next several years.  I anticipate that 8-man football will continue to increase in popularity as small schools struggle to find enough players to compete in 11-man football.

Schmitz – I think this will make for a strong conference, familiar teams help.   With most teams an hour or less apart it makes travel better as well.

Rosemeyer – Overall impact?  Hard to tell.  Again, with more teams going 8-man, Lakeland teams are also being put back together somewhat as before and their travel is also limited.  Small school conferences in the area appear to look like times before 8-man came into play around 2011.  With so many Wisconsin small school football teams going to 8-man, I wonder if the WIAA will get rid of Division 7 playoffs.

Hagen – I am not sure would impact it would have on area conferences because right now I am just focusing on Colby and what these proposals mean for us and other schools in the Marawood Conference.

Sullivan – I also was good with the move to the CWC Small to play more similar sized schools and shorter travel times.  However, now this is also getting thrown out the door with having to play the cross over games with the larger Marawood conference teams.  I just don’t feel there is much we can do about the changes.  With more teams playing 8 man, the pool of D7 teams in Central WI is dwindling.  It just makes me want to work harder to get our kids more prepared and work harder in the off season to be able to compete with the larger schools.

We welcome your stories! Contact us at [email protected]!

David Keech
Author: David Keech

David Keech is a math teacher in Wisconsin Rapids and public address announcer for Abbotsord High School. He officiates basketball, baseball, and softball in central Wisconsin. He has reported on amateur sports since 2011, known as 'KeechDaVoice.' David can be reached at [email protected]