By Amanda Schwarze and Melissa Marohl
The Pioneer and Waconia Patriot
In the fall of 2015, high school football schedules will undergo a transformation.
The Minnesota State High School League Board of Directors approved a plan Jan. 23 that will do away with the current conference set up for Minnesota football. Instead, districts will be formed of no fewer than 10 schools and of preferably 16 or more schools.
The schools within each district will create full schedules for all of the teams. Teams will be required to play other teams within their district throughout the eight-week regular season.
Orono Athletic Director Bucky Mieras said that he is in favor of the change.
“I’m feeling really positive about it,” he said. “I’m tired of all of the conference realignments and I think football created a lot of that.”
Much is still unknown about the new system. The districts, which will be realigned every two years like sections, are expected to be created in September. A committee will be formed to place schools in districts based on factors such as school size, geography and the strength of the football program.
Questions about exactly how far a team will have to travel and whether natural rivalries will be lost in the new system won’t be answered until the districts are formed, Mieras said.
Mieras said that Orono’s central location will likely lead to a little less travel for the Spartan football players when the conferences are eliminated. In the coming season, New Prague will be in the Wright County Conference, which could lead to some long bus rides for players. New London-Spicer is also in the conference.
While overall Mieras feels like the switch to a district system will be beneficial for football teams, he said that the conference system hasn’t been a problem for Orono.
“We’re fine as is,” he said. “Our conference is really unique. Football is really strong in the Wright County Conference.”
Other schools, though, have had problems filling their football schedules and are in conferences with teams that are substantially different than their own.
Mayer Lutheran Activities Director Tim Bierbaum said that district football scheduling will solve the dilemma his school was facing of whether to leave the Minnesota River Conference.
“Prior to district football, we were considering the disparity between our enrollment and the enrollments of the biggest schools in our conference,” he said. “I knew that if that gap increased, we were going to have to look for a different conference for football. District football puts us with the right sized schools for football and leaves us with the right schools for the rest of our sports.”
Perhaps the most positive thing that the district football system will do for schools like Orono is to quiet some of arguments about football scheduling, Mieras said. He believes that the scheduling issue has received too much negative publicity.
Mieras also believes, though, that there were issues with some schedules. He said that he agrees that there is a problem when some teams have to travel across the state or even to a different state to fill schedules. He also understands why people question a high school football team traveling for an hour or more to play a team from a school that is much larger.
Once the districts and 2015 schedule are set, Mieras said that there will likely be some people upset with the results. He is not going to spend time worrying, though, on how the new system might be negative for the Spartans.
“It is what it is,” he said. “It’s time to move forward.”
Contact Amanda Schwarze at [email protected]