Change is coming to M&O
Lena/St. Thomas to switch to eight-man football; Oneida Nation to join conference
Wednesday, December 18, 2013 6:00 PM
PESHTIGO - Change is in the air for Wisconsin's oldest conference, the M&O.
In two years, the M&O will become a 10-team league for volleyball and basketball.
The WIAA Board of Control Dec. 6 voted 6-2 to add Oneida Nation to the M&O.
As is the case with Oneida, Lena/St. Thomas Aquinas Academy has made the switch to eight-man football.
Peshtigo is mulling over the possibility of co-oping its boys' soccer team with the Marinette Marines. The Peshtigo School Board will act on that proposal at its January meeting.
The board directed Peshtigo Athletic Director Bill Wickman and Peshtigo High School principal Chad Sodini to explore options, such as joining the Packerland Conference, in order to compete in a league which offers cross country and soccer, and a full slate of junior varsity and freshman games.
"What we're looking for is more consistency in scheduling," Wickman said.
Not enough M&O teams compete in cross country and soccer in order to crown a champion, so the ones that do play those sports compete on a nonconference basis.
Wickman said four Packerland representatives spoke to the Board of Control on behalf of Peshtigo, but that the board voted down the request.
"Everybody was in support of Peshtigo joining," he said.
Marinette activities director Kurt Gundlach approached Wickman about the possibility of combining soccer teams. The Marine soccer teams compete in the Bay Conference but in the past couple of seasons haven't had enough players to field a jayvee team.
In October, the Lena Board of Education approved the switch to eight-man football. Lena/STAA submitted its paperwork to the WIAA to compete in eight-man football next season. The Titans will compete against Oakfield, Three Lakes, NEW Lutheran, Oneida, Gibraltar, Sevastopol, Bowler, Abundant Life and Maranatha Academy.
M&O officials opposed the addition of Oneida. They could appeal the Board of Control move before a final decision is made, but M&O Commissioner Dave Collins doesn't believe the WIAA would budge. The realignment proposal impacts 76 schools in eight leagues, so alterations would have a domino effect.
"I can understand that reasoning, but I don't think it applies to us," Collins said.
Oneida is currently an independent, so changing the proposal to keep it out of the M&O would not impact other leagues, he explained.
The M&O may not appeal the board decision, however.
"I don't see it changing, to be honest," Collins said. "Everybody's feeling is it wouldn't do much good."
Collins added that it's hard to imagine the WIAA scrapping the entire realignment plan in order to accommodate the wishes of the M&O.
"We're kind of a small fish in a big pond here," he said.
Oneida competes in boys' and girls' basketball, volleyball, softball lacrosse and eight-man football.
"It was almost a whim how it happened," Collins said. "We were not notified at all. The WIAA was bound and determined to put Oneida in a conference. There's no sense in stewing about it - you make the best of what you have."
Oneida's extracurricular activities center around native American cultural events. It does not have a student council and doesn't compete in forensics or Hi-Q.
In volleyball, the M&O currently competes in single round-robin matches and four triangulars. In the spring, M&O baseball and softball teams travel together to save on costs, but Oneida does not have a baseball program. In basketball, the Thunderhawks will fit in nicely because their addition will eliminate byes in the M&O schedule.
With Lena/STAA switching to eight-man football, the M&O will now be a six-team league. The final five weeks of the season will be conference games. The other four weeks will be non-conference games and crossover games with the Northern Lakes Conference.
The M&O constitution states that more than half of the schools must compete in a sport in order for it to be considered a conference sport. Currently, five of nine compete in wrestling.
Because Oneida doesn't have a wrestling team, there won't be a conference champion in wrestling in two years unless the constitution is changed, Collins said.
There has been discussion of a 16-team M&O/Northern Lakes football conference, evenly divided between 11-man and eight-man football. But no decision has been made.
"I can see it happen though," Collins said.