PREP SPORTS: MSHSL votes to eliminate football conferences

MARSHALL – The postseason football landscape will looks significantly different for teams across the entire state next season as the Minnesota State High School League will be moving to a district format, eliminating conference play.

The decision was passed by a 19-1 vote at the Board of Directors meeting in January.

Districts will aim to have at least 16 teams and there will be a committee, which hasn’t been formed yet, appointed to help put together eight-game season schedules against teams in their respective districts. The goal is to have at least 10 schools in each district.

Marshall football coach Terry Bahlmann is looking forward to the change, as the Tigers have struggled to fill their schedule the past few years.

“I’ve always have been an advocate of trying to do something different,” Bahlmann said. “We know we’re going to get our schedule filled. That has been a problem in the past.”

Bahlmann spent time coaching high school football in Iowa, a state that made a similar change in its football format and he felt people were opposed at first, but eventually grew to like the system.

Minneota football coach Chad Johnston has been a member of the Football Advisory Committee for the last four years and knows the scheduling has been a conflict for the past few years.

It was such a hot topic, that state politicians were starting to get concerned over the matter.

“We decided that we would handle the problem internally before we let state politicians get involved,” Johnston said.

Johnston, who’s Vikings moved up to Class 2A last season does have some concerns that it will change the team’s schedule too dramatically.

He knows it’s a big wait-and-see process.

“We were sitting pretty good,” Johnston said. “It will be interesting to see where they draw the line. It’s not a cure-all formula, but I understand why the state made the decision that they did.”

Johnston feels his team could end up playing up to 75 percent of the opponents that are already on their schedule.

Dawson-Boyd coach Cory Larson was indifferent to the change, as he also has had no problem filling his football schedule for the most part.

“I hope it doesn’t change our conference too much,” Larson said. “I love our conference. It’s very competitive. I think the bigger schools are the ones that have had trouble filling the schedules. It seems that whenever there is problems with the bigger schools, that’s when things change.”

This change in format will not have any effect on the section seedings and playoffs. Districts, along with class and section assignments, will be changed and re-assigned every two years.