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Proposed realignment may shake up BRC football

Could the 2009 high school football season be the last time River Falls and Hudson battle for the Little Brown Jug?

It could if the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) has its way.

Because of changes in the Wisconsin Valley Conference, the WIAA is floating a proposal to bring the Big Rivers Conference, Mississippi Valley Conference and Wisconsin Valley Conference together under one football-only umbrella. The proposal would split the schools into two, 10-team conferences based on enrollment and could be implemented as early as 2010.

The plan would be for football only.

"It's just being looked at," River Falls Activities Director Rollie Hall said. "Nothing is definite. But we have to talk and come up with something better."

Under the proposal, Hudson (enrollment 1,170) would join Stevens Point (2,414), Wisconsin Rapids (2,024), D.C. Everest (1,838), Eau Claire Memorial (1,762), Wausau West (1,696), Superior (1,606), Chippewa Falls (1,586), Eau Claire North (1,507) and Marshfield (1,359) in one conference.

River Falls (1,073), would join La Crosse Central (1,312), Wausau East (1,266), Tomah (1,084), La Crosse Logan (1.082), Menomonie (1,059), Holmen (1,053), Onalaska (921), Sparta (907) and Rice Lake (826) or La Crosse Aquinas (353) in another.

The action is being considered because Merrill (1,135), Antigo (1,022) and Rhinelander (1,069) have all left the Wisconsin Valley Conference over the past two years, leaving the WVC with just six teams.

The Big Rivers Conference is the only one of the three conferences involved that currently does not have a scheduling problem. With eight teams, the BRC only needs to find nonconference games for the first two weeks of the season. The Mississippi Valley is a seven-team conference, and the Wisconsin Valley now has six, meaning they have to scramble to find nonconference games after week two, when most other teams are in conference play.

"Under the proposal, each team would play nine conference games and zero nonconference games," Hall said.

That means traditional rivalries such as River Falls and Hudson would cease to exist.

"We did offer another plan where we would fill some of their nonconference games but we haven't heard back."

Hall said there are plenty of other reasons to object to the plan.

"I know the athletic directors are against it because of the increased mileage," he said. "Every other year we'd play at Menomonie, and that would be our closest game. That means every other year, when we don't play at Menomonie, our closest game would be in La Crosse. And we wouldn't play a game we've been playing for 60 years 10 miles down the road."

In addition to the increased traveling costs, Hall said the school would also lose revenue by not hosting Hudson every other year.

"Hudson is not only 10 miles away, but it's a fantastic game every year," he said. "The crowds are huge. In know in the six years I've been here, if you looked at it strictly from a financial point, our three home games against Hudson have been the biggest revenue makers, by far. And I'm guessing it's the same way in Hudson."

The realignment would also create logistical headaches for freshmen and junior varsity teams that normally play during the week.

The proposal is expected to go before the WIAA Board of Control in March. Hall said he expects plenty of discussion before then.

"We'll be having meetings in the next month or so, athletic directors and some coaches, to try and come up with a better idea," he said.