Clintonville ponders conference move
CWC-8 has approached district
By Bert Lehman
The Clintonville School District is exploring its conference affiliation options for its football program, and potentially other sports.
At a Sept. 12 meeting, District Superintendent Tom O’Toole told the school board that the district has held internal discussions for a couple of years about the sports conference the district competes in.
He added that he recently met with Lance Bagstad, Clintonville High School principal, Bob Bothe, activity director, and Scott Werfal, Clintonville High School football coach about the issue.
Werfal told the board that when he took over the football program three years ago, the program had low numbers.
“I think generally there was no excitement around the program,” Werfal said. “Certainly not competitive on the field for a few years prior to that.”
He added that when he took over the program, he knew results on the field would take time.
The program has some great kids in it now, Werfal said, but the district is in a unique situation as the program has only six seniors on the team.
Werfal said the program had 48 students this first year as head coach. That number was up to 58 last year and is at 60 this year. He said that number is projected to be in the 70s next year.
“We think we have great numbers,” Werfal said. “Our Quarterback Club has come back together. … They’re energized and helping us raise money.”
He said he is concerned about the results on the field.
Werfal discussed the team’s records since 2011. Since that time, the team has won seven games and lost 38 games. The average score has been 37-12.
“We play in the toughest division 3-4 conference in the state,” Werfal said.
Clintonville plays in the North Eastern Conference, which includes Luxemburg-Casco, Little Chute, Fox Valley Lutheran, Wrightstown, Freedom, Marinette, Denmark and Oconto Falls.
He said his main concern is Clintonville is not competitive against most of the teams it plays. He said his players have improved a great deal, but that hasn’t translated into results on the field.
Because of that, Werfal told the board that he approached school administration about the conference affiliation the district has.
Werfal said a different conference has approached the district.
School board member Mark Zachow asked Werfal which conference he wanted to be in.
Werfal said the Central Wisconsin Eight Conference (CWC-8) has approached the district.
The CWC-8 includes Amherst, Shiocton, Bonduel, Iola-Scandinavia, Manawa, Weyauwega-Fremont, Wittenberg-Birnamwood and Pacelli.
Bagstad told the board a conference had approached the Clintonville School District last year, but nothing materialized from that.
Based on the meeting that included himself, O’Toole, Bothe and Werfal, an email was sent to all the NEC principals and the CWC-8 commissioner, who then forwarded it to superintendents and principals in the conference.
He added that he attended an NEC meeting earlier in the day in which potential ramifications of leaving the conference were discussed. This included playoffs for football and conference affiliation for other sports.
Bagstad said a vote was not taken at the meeting, but his sense was the district would not receive approval to leave the conference in only football. He said it was suggested that Clintonville explore affiliating with another conference in all sports.
Bagstad said if the district decides to leave the NEC for football without approval from the NEC schools, the WIAA Constitution states it could lose the conference affiliation in all sports. Even if the district receives approval from the NEC conference to leave, it would be ineligible for the football playoffs for four seasons.
“But, if we stay in the NEC, there’s probably not a chance we’re making the playoffs with the competition we have anyway,” Bagstad said.
A potential issue is the district’s soccer program. Bagstad said the CWC-8 does not have soccer, so Clintonville would have to try to convince the NEC to let the soccer program stay, or it would have to be independent, not affiliated with any conference.
“There’s a lot to making the move, but from a program standpoint, whether its football or our kids being excited about stepping on the floor or on the court or on the field, I would argue that it’s probably not the worst move we could potentially make if the CWC would have us,” Bagstad said.
Zachow asked what the next move is for the district.
O’Toole said that answer is simple if both conferences agree to the conference affiliation change.
Bagstad added that the issue was brought before the school board because of the potential consequences such a move could have.
Board member Ben Huber said if the district does not receive approval to leave the NEC, he would not recommend threatening the other sports.
“I think that’s too much of a price to pay,” Huber said. “Even if it’s an unlikely outcome I think to take that risk is too great for all the other sports and all the other kids.”
Huber also asked how a change would impact non-sports conference activities.
Bagstad said he thought those things would fall into place if a conference affiliation change was made.
Board member Lori Poppe asked if the conference change would be beneficial to the students in the district.
Bagstad said it would be beneficial.
School Board President Jim Dins said he was in favor of switching all sports to a new conference as long as the district has a plan for its soccer program.
The administration will update the board as new developments happen.