State football changes are passed


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Minnesota State High School League’s (MSHSL) Board of Directors unanimously adopted a plan June 2 to place all member schools with football programs into districts starting with the 2015 season.

That plan hopes to reduce scheduling problems and travel distance for state football squads. Members of each district will divide the district into sub-districts, and then create a full schedule for each team.

The MSHSL’s intent was to make sure the placement of schools will not negatively affect traditional rivalries or preferred opponents.

Many state coaches and athletic directors have been seeking a solution for scheduling problems in recent years.

For example, large-enrollment schools from the Lake Conference (Edina, Hopkins, Minnetonka, Wayzata and Eden Prairie) have been forced to compete against out-of-state teams at times. Wayzata and Eden Prairie played only seven regular season games instead of eight a few seasons. Eden Prairie had to travel to Winnipeg for a non-conference game several years ago to fill out its schedule. And the Eagles had to pay Minneapolis South to ensure a non-conference opponent in recent seasons.

The recent MSHSL football changes will not affect sectional playoffs. Regular-season schedules will be made at the district level, with most games being intra-district.

Districts could form sub-districts resulting in some teams playing each other more regularly. Work on football scheduling is beginning and the league is encouraging districts to establish 2015 and 2016 schedules by Nov. 1.

Football districts range from 12 to 28 schools based on geography, enrollment and strength of programs.

“Everybody needs to keep in mind that this is just a step in the process of developing actual schedules for our member schools,” said MSHSL Associate Director Kevin Merkle in presenting the plan to the Board. “Some districts have a wide range in school enrollment and geography, but once the districts determine their sub-district alignments, most of the enrollment and geographical issues will be solved.”

A 10-member District Football Placement Committee met five times since mid-March to place schools in districts, using enrollment, geography and current opponents as key criteria. Schools were given the opportunity to provide information to the committee in advance, including three teams that they would like to continue to schedule.

Milaca’s district, East Central, includes the following teams:

Albany, Annandale, Becker, Dassel-Cokato, Delano, Foley, Glencoe-Silver Lake, Holy Family, Hutchinson, Litchfield, Little Falls, New London-Spicer, St. Cloud Cathedral, Watertown-Mayer and Zimmerman.