Conference realignment is always a big issue when it comes to high school sports and the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA).

Northland Pines and Three Lakes high schools have both been involved in conference realignment discussions over the past several years, especially when it comes to football.

Northland Pines is currently an independent in football after getting released from the WestPAC Conference in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan last year. There have been rumblings that the Eagles may get moved to the Marawood Conference for football-only after next season, but that will be up to the WIAA.

The Eagles play in the Great Northern Conference (GNC) in all other sports, but have a tough time competing in football against larger schools such as Antigo, Merrill, Lakeland, Mosinee, Rhinelander and Medford. Tomahawk already bolted from the GNC for football.

Three Lakes-Phelps has been moved to a group of several other conferences for football, with a large and small division from the Northern Lakes and Marinette and Oconto conferences.

The task force assembled to review the WIAA’s conference realignment process met at the association’s executive office earlier this fall.

The purpose of the committee, comprised of mostly membership and executive staff personnel, is to evaluate the current protocol for conference realignment and determine if the current process can be improved to better serve the needs of the membership, which consists of a whopping 511 high schools throughout the state.

The task force was presented with a history of conference realignment and an overview of the guidelines and philosophy as were originally developed in the 1970s. The WIAA’s constitution provides the board of control with the ultimate authority in conference alignment matters.

Among the first tasks of the committee was to identify the challenges and concerns with the current process and philosophy, and then prioritize them to determine areas of the process that may need the most attention. Then, the group explored ideas that could resolve the concerns identified.

The task force will reconvene again this fall following the area meetings, where the executive staff plans to review the realignment process and initial discussions of the committee. 

The WIAA executive office receives persistent requests for relief through conference realignment. At the annual meeting last April, WIAA Executive Director Dave Anderson announced a one-year moratorium on conference realignment requests where there is not 100% agreement from the schools and conferences impacted by the change.

We will have to wait and see what happens to Northland Pines and Three Lakes-Phelps in football the next year or two.