by Jason Olson
The search by Spring Lake Park, Totino Grace and Irondale for a new conference home for the 2014-15 school year ended Monday, Aug. 19 after the schools were admitted to the Northwest Suburban Conference.)
The Minnesota State High School League’s Conference Placement Committee made the recommendation for the three schools to join the Northwest Suburban Conference to the MSHSL Board of Directors.
The new NWSC for the 2014-15 season comprises Andover, Anoka, Blaine, Centennial, Champlin Park, Coon Rapids, Elk River, Irondale, Maple Grove, Osseo, Park Center, Robbinsdale Armstrong, Spring Lake Park and Totino-Grace.
According to Spring Lake Park Activities Director Matt St. Martin, the school community is very excited by the news. “While it’s a year down the road, we look forward to the competitive balance and the broad spectrum of offerings this new conference placement will offer our students,” St. Martin said.
Osseo athletic director Ray Kirch welcomes the new teams.
“We voted for their inclusion when they first applied, but they were initially denied by the conference,” Kirch said. “They were eventually assigned to us by the MSHSL. The advantages of getting three new teams are more scheduling options and new rivalries.”
Maple Grove athletic director Ron Zopfi does not have strong feelings about the inclusion of three new schools.
“I really do not have any feelings about it. It is a done deal and we move on,” Zopfi said. “I really cannot find any advantages to getting all three.”
The criteria for placement included school size, comparable activities offered, geographical distance and the number of member schools in the conference under consideration and in divisions within conferences under consideration.
The Panthers will compete in an eight-team North Suburban Conference this school year, which is the minimum number for a conference after St. Francis, Chisago Lakes and North Branch announced a move to the Mississippi 8 Conference in September 2012.
The final North Suburban Conference season will include Benilde-St. Margaret’s, Columbia Heights, Fridley, Irondale, Robbinsdale Cooper, Spring Lake Park, St. Louis Park and Totino-Grace.
St. Louis Park and Robbinsdale Cooper will compete in the Metro West Conference after announcing their intention to leave in February.
That move was followed by a decision in March to dissolve the conference effective June 30, 2014. The North Suburban Conference said disparity regarding program offerings and student enrollment as two factors that played into the decision.
Totino-Grace joined the NWSC for football only for the first time in 2012 and won the North Division with a perfect 5-0 record. The Eagles went 7-0 against NWSC foes and 8-0 overall during the regular season.
Contact Jason Olson at [email protected]