Clintonville explored conference change
By Erik Buchinger
The Clintonville High School football team has no plans to switch conferences, but a change could be coming in the future, according to Principal Lance Bagstad.
The topic was originally brought up in September 2016 because the football team struggled to be competitive against other teams in the North Eastern Conference.
The Truckers finished 0-9 in the fall with an average score of 52-8, and Clintonville did not score in five of its nine games.
In addition to Clintonville, the North Eastern Conference includes Luxemburg-Casco, Little Chute, Freedom, Wrightstown, Fox Valley Lutheran, Marinette, Denmark and Oconto Falls.
Bagstad provided an update at the most recent Clintonville School Board meeting on Monday, Jan. 23.
“We went to [the North Eastern Conference], which had really no interest in letting us out,” Bagstad said. “If we were to leave conference without permission, it could not only impact football for the WIAA playoffs, but it would have an impact on other sports potentially.”
If Truckers football left the conference without permission, other Clintonville programs would be in jeopardy of being left without a conference.
Also, the Central Wisconsin Conference – Eight, which is the conference that Clintonville has discussed moving into, does not include soccer. The soccer program would either have to remain in the NEC if the conference allowed it or become an independent program.
Bagstad said he brought the idea to the attention of the CWC, which includes Amherst, Iola-Scandinavia, Bonduel, Shiocton, Weyauwega-Fremont, Pacelli and Wittenberg-Birnamwood.
“We sent a letter to the CWC stating our position and thoughts, but they basically said until something were to happen in the NEC, they weren’t going to discuss it further,” Bagstad said.
Conference realignment is generally only important for football because it is the only sport where not everybody makes the playoffs. Teams must at least have a .500 conference record to be eligible for postseason play.
“We’re in an odd spot geographically for our size,” Bagstad said. “With our school population, we probably fit better in the NEC, and we would be considerably larger in the CWC.”
Clintonville’s enrollment ranks fifth among the nine teams in the NEC, and the school would have at least 200 more students than all seven schools in the CWC.
Even if the NEC does not let Clintonville find a new conference, there is possibility for a switch in the future, according to Bagstad.
“I do not see the NEC allowing us out, in part because it’s a fairly new conference, and I think the other piece of that is that the WIAA, probably within in the next couple years, is going to do a full realignment,” Bagstad said. “The WIAA is looking at a rotation where every four years, they go through process of realigning.”
Bagstad said several schools have gone to alternative routes and switched to eight-man football teams.
“In southwest Wisconsin, eight-man football is what is going on all over the state down there because the schools are small and don’t have the numbers to have football,” Bagstad said. “They still want to have their own school and own football. Now you’re starting to see schools in the CWC doing eight-man football, and others are going that direction.”
Bowler/Gresham moved from the CWC to form an eight-man squad, and there are now 32 eight-man high school football teams in Wisconsin.
“I think we’re probably in a spot where we will play in the NEC until they realign, and whatever letter combination they give us for the new conference name, we’ll play sports in that conference,” Bagstad said. “I don’t really see it making a change without impacting WIAA tournament options for us.”