Rock Valley crossovers only count in North
JANESVILLE—For one season, at least, all parties seem satisfied with the football arrangement in the Rock Valley Conference.
The WIAA has granted the conference a one-year waiver where crossover games between the North and South divisions—the first of which was on Friday and the second which comes Oct. 4—officially only count in the standings for the teams in the North.
Though the future of the move seems shaky, at best, it's one that the league's athletic directors and principals agreed made the most sense given the differential in enrollments between North and South schools.
“What we said was, it's more advantageous for our conference to try and get as many teams to qualify for the playoffs,” said Jim Matthys, the former football coach and athletic director in Brodhead, who took over as the school's principal this year. “It looks good for our conference and it's good for the smaller schools and their programs. It's been an ongoing discussion.”
Much of the talk centers around enrollments, and the advantages and disadvantages the numbers pose between larger schools in the North and smallers schools in the South.
In the North, McFarland has the largest enrollment for the 2013-14 season at 704. The Evansville/Albany football coop gives that school an enrollment of 602. The smallest enrollment in the division is East Troy, at 515.
Walworth Big Foot matches East Troy's number, making it the largest South division program. Compare that to 332 at Palmyra-Eagle and the conference's lowest enrollment, at Orfordville Parkview, which dipped below 300 this year.
“When we started the conference six years ago with the 12 schools, we divided it into the North and South, which essentially is large and small,” said Big Foot Athletic Director Tim Collins, who has been involved with the conference since its inception more than three decades ago. “You can hide it behind North and South, but it's essentially large and small.”
Collins said the initial decision to count crossover games came because of WIAA placement procedures when it came to the football playoffs.
“With seven conference games, it pulled more weight than five conference games,” he said. “A 4-3 record held more weight than a 3-2 record. We wanted to get as many teams from our conferences in the playoffs and placed as high as possible.”
Still, the debate to count crossover games began over the past couple years, as the norm became four—or even five, as occurred a year ago—playoff teams coming out of the North and two—generally Big Foot and Brodhead—coming from the South.
“It's been kind of a pointed discussion for years because the smaller schools are going, 'We're always getting beat by the bigger schools and get two losses, and you've got to have a .500 record to go into the playoffs,'” said Rock Valley Executive Secretary, Treasurer and Commissioner Mike Willeman. “(The vote) typically ended up at 6-6, where the North schools wanted to count them because they won the games.”
“I don't blame the North, they're looking out for themselves and they can pick up two conference wins, generally speaking,” Collins said. “(But) it's an unbelievable stat, like 80 percent to 20 percent (with the North beating South).”
The discussion took a slight turn when the WIAA went to seeding for the football playoffs for the first time last year. No longer was a 7-0 conference record valued more than a 5-0 mark.
During meetings over the winter, Collins came up with the proposal that the crossover football games would only count for the North teams. As a member of the WIAA's Sports Advisory Committee, he took the idea to officials there and left feeling that the parties seemed to agree that the proposal offered a decent compromise.
“That passed 12-0, that the big schools would count them and the small schools would not count them,” Willeman said.
Yet, it's never that simple.
When Willeman spoke with WIAA Director of Communications Todd Clark in August, prior to the start of the season, Clark indicated that the WIAA wasn't exactly on board with that plan.
“That is normally something we don't do,” Clark said Monday regarding half of a conference counting crossover games and the other half not. “But the late measure, and having the schedules all set up the way they were, they get a one-year waiver on that.”
Thus, it appears that after this season, those in the Rock Valley may be back to square one.
Parkview has brought up realignment in the past, and requested it again at WIAA meetings in Mount Horeb on Tuesday. The Vikings propose the Capitol Conference as an option.
Because of an 0-2 mark in crossover games last season, the Vikings were left out of the playoffs.
“The only other option is realignment and that wasn't really an option for the WIAA,” Matthys said of past discussions. “They weren't interested in even looking at our conference for realignment.”
So, while the North officially opened its conference football season last Friday—four of the six teams won—the South begins this Friday. And the revolving-door discussion over crossovers will continue tonight when the Rock Valley athletic directors and principals meet in Fort Atkinson.
“I really thought I had the ideal plan, to tell you the truth,” Collins said. “They said we can do it this year, and next year we won't be able to.
“I'm going to discuss it again with (the WIAA). I have a meeting up there Oct. 6, and we'll see if we can work something out.”