Questions and answers on district scheduling
Q Why did Minnesota sack football conferences in favor of district scheduling?
A To guarantee all teams a full, eight-game regular-season schedule against Minnesota schools.
Q Does district scheduling affect the section playoff arrangement?
A No. Sections remain intact. Alignments are set for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Teams are organized first by class (Nine-Man, 1A, etc.) and then by geography.
Q How different are schools’ schedules this season?
A It varies by team. In the metro area, many will play a number of opponents that they played in recent years.
Q Are conferences dead?
A Yes, but only for football. The 18 districts created by the Minnesota State High School League were divided into subdistricts, many named for colors. Teams within subdistricts will compete for titles, similar to conferences.
Q Are the large, affluent schools of the Lake Conference behind this?
A Yes, in part. Eden Prairie, Edina, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Wayzata found it difficult to field full schedules because of their size and success. Some played games throughout the Midwest and even in Manitoba, or paid local schools thousands of dollars for games. Those concerns prompted west-metro legislators to introduce a bill to provide all schools a full slate of regular-season games. Like a quarterback behind a porous offensive line, the high school league felt the heat.
But it wasn’t just the Lake teams. In a league survey, 41 percent of teams statewide reported scheduling difficulties in the past 10 years. In recent years several conferences chose to dissolve and re-form with new schools, seeking more competitive balance in football.
Q Without conferences, who makes sure teams are willing scheduling partners?
A The high school league oversees the districts. The league requires that teams play a full district schedule to be playoff-eligible. Officials in each district created the schedules.
Q What about those unintended consequences?
A There’s grumbling outside the Twin Cities, where about 70 percent of teams already were in football-only conferences, that district scheduling stirred the pot.
One example was breaking up Duluth-area teams that played in the Great Polar Football Alliance. South of the metro in Montgomery, Tri-City United has been forced to more than double its travel distance. The Titans will log more than 1,000 bus miles this fall. Several rivalries will take a two-year hiatus, including Minneapolis Henry vs. Minneapolis North, Monticello vs. Rogers and Park of Cottage Grove vs. Woodbury.
Q The pleasant surprises?
A Competitive balance. Creating bigger districts of like teams provides more chances to win for struggling teams once locked in strong conferences. This fall Brooklyn Center (4-6 last season), Concordia Academy of Roseville (3-6) and Irondale (0-9) should face more evenly matched competition. A couple more victories could attract more kids. That’s how you rebuild a program.