Moving Marinette to the Valley
Realignment plan places Marines in a new league
Monday, October 14, 2013 7:00 PM
MARINETTE - Change is in the air for Marinette Marine sports, but the M&M Game appears to be a big part of the foreseeable future.
Realignment would mean five new opponents, one former foe and three existing opponents for Marine sports.
Except for football.
On Friday, the WIAA presented a final realignment plan for Northeast Wisconsin. Schools have 40 days to appeal the plan, which will be presented to the WIAA Board of Control for final approval on Dec. 6.
The plan places Marinette in the Eastern Valley Conference along with Clintonville, Denmark, Fox Valley Lutheran, Freedom, Little Chute, Luxemburg-Casco, Oconto Falls, Waupaca and Wrightstown.
Waupaca would compete in football in the new Bay Conference, but would play all other sports in the Eastern Valley.
"I like it," Marinette activities director Kurt Gundlach said. "I think it's a better fit for us from an enrollment standpoint. I think it's a more level playing field from top to bottom."
Last month, the realignment plan was first presented to area school officials. It would have created a 10-team Eastern Valley Conference and a new eight-team Bay. That would have filled Marinette's schedule with nine conference football games and no room for the non-conference M&M Game.
On Oct. 2, athletic directors from the existing Bay Conference came to a consensus that schools would be better served with nine-team Eastern Valley and Bay conferences. They sent a letter in support of nine-team leagues to Deb Hauser, WIAA associate director.
"There were a lot of issues with 10 teams," Gundlach said. "Our issue was the M&M Game, but Xavier and Fox Valley Lutheran also have a pretty strong alignment with themselves in terms of a rivalry."
Hauser amended her proposal to create nine-team football leagues, thereby allowing one non-league game.
"I think she listened, because the main issue was football," Gundlach said.
Trying to create more parity in football has been the driving force behind realignment, Gundlach added.
In the existing Bay, a disparity in enrollment and competitive inequity has grown in recent years.
"And that started to surface more and more as schools such as West De Pere started to grow," he added.
If approved, realignment would go into effect for the 2015-16 school year. Three of Marinette's current opponents, Luxemburg-Casco, Oconto Falls and Denmark, would also move to the Eastern Valley. Clintonville, a longtime member of the Bay and former opponent of the Marines in the 1970s, '80s and '90s, would be reunited.
In the current nine-team Bay, teams play 16 conference basketball games and struggle to schedule six nonconference games.
"On the total picture I personally like the 10-team league for all the other sports," Gundlach said of the new proposal. "It makes it easier for other sports. I feel good about the end result for us and the future as we move forward in a new league."
Road trips to Shawano, Seymour, New London, West De Pere and Hortonville would be replaced by trips to Clintonville, Freedom, Wrightstown and the Appleton area. Waupaca is about 125 miles away, farther than any current conference road trip.
"We're used to long travel, no it's not a big concern for us," Gundlach said. "The concern would be traveling to Waupaca for basketball on a Tuesday night."
Xavier, the one school that might appeal the realignment plan, is not happy about being placed in the new Bay, but will fit in competitively, according to Gundlach.
"I think every other school sees the total value," he added.
The possibility of no M&M Game after next year raised the ire of Twin-City sports enthusiasts.
"I think there's a different perspective within the community," said Gundlach, who coached M&M Games in 2011 and '12. "It's a part of who we are here. It's hard if someone says they want to take away your identity. It's more of an event than just a game."