WIAA: Big changes ahead for football, basketball

The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Board of Control ratified several membership recommendations that will impact the future of interscholastic athletics in the state and approved football-only conference realignment plans at its annual summer meeting last week.

After considering an appeal to the initial approval of combining the Wisconsin Valley Conference and Fox Valley Association for football only, the Board voted 7-3 to give final approval of the plan that forms one 16-team league containing two separate eight-team divisions, which are to be determined by the schools of the newly formed football conference for the 2011 season.

The second football-only conference realignment plan also received final approval by the Board. It affects the members of the CloverWood, Dairyland, Great Northern and Marawood conferences with implementation in 2011. The plan moves McDonell Central from the Marawood to the CloverWood, Augusta from the CloverWood to the Dairyland and Tomahawk from the Great Northern to the Marawood.

The Great Northern Conference released Northland Pines and Tomahawk from its football schedule effective in 2010, making it a five-team league this fall. In 2011, Merrill and Ashland are both scheduled to become members of the Great Northern Conference for football only. Until then, Merrill will compete in the Wisconsin Valley Conference with all sports beginning this fall, and Ashland will play an independent football schedule in 2010.

A directive from the Board to eliminate three football games in 10 days at the end of the season will result in beginning the season earlier. The Board approved the option to begin the season on the Wednesday of week five, five days earlier than the traditional start date. A membership survey indicated starting the season early was the most preferred option. Other options included eliminating one game of the regular season, conducting the State Championship Playoffs one week later or reducing the playoff field to 112.

Five divisions in basketball

Beginning in 2010-11, the WIAA??¢????????Tournament Series with have a fifth division in basketball. The Board unanimously approved the plan that advances four teams to the State Tournament in each division and five championship games on the final day of the boys and girls tournaments. The plan also provides Division 1 with a “super sectional” the Tuesday the week of the State Tournament.

The change will create greater enrollment balance within divisions, including: D1??¢????????1,200+; D2??¢????????600-1,200; D3 & D4??¢????????enrollments between 200-600 will be split in half between D3 and D4; and D5??¢????????below 200.

In other basketball action, the Board approved a change to the regional and sectional schedules for 2011. Regionals will be played on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, and sectionals will be played on Thursday and Saturday. It also supported the recommendation to seed the half bracket of up to 16 teams in each D2, D3 and D4 sectional if 75 percent of the schools in a given half bracket consent. If not, the bracket will be split into regional groupings with a maximum of eight as is the current model.

Wrestling, hockey additions

In wrestling, the Board approved the Seven Percent Committee’s recommendation to add language that clarifies procedures to establish minimum weight and qualifying for the growth allowance. In addition, the committee’s recommendation that no day be counted twice when calculating appropriate weight loss when a wrestler drops to a lower weight class was approved. The Board also passed a recommendation that all digital scales used in official weigh-ins must measure in increments of two-tenths or less by 2011.

Changes in hockey include a three game suspension for players assessed a disqualification penalty for fighting.

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