Oct. 2, 2010
Can Duluth Central find a home?
By Rick Weegman
Conference rivals in football a year ago, Duluth
Central and Detroit Lakes have spent 2010 wandering the independent
As such, scheduling Friday night’s game
at Public Schools Stadium was a no-brainer. But with Detroit Lakes’
inclusion in the Heart O’Lakes North Conference for the 2011-12
school year, it means Central must seek another long-distance foe
“We’re one of those schools with a
big problem,” Central activities director Tom Pearson said
of next year’s schedule, which has at least four open dates.
That problem, which affects Duluth East and Grand
Rapids as well, came about after the dissolution of the North Country
Conference. All three schools have applied to — and been rejected
by — the Central Lakes, Mississippi 8 and Sea-Range conferences.
That’s the first step that ultimately could
lead to the Minnesota State High School League placing those schools
in one of those conferences. The next step is for those schools
to send a letter to the MSHSL stating why they are a good fit for
each of those conferences — the conferences will do likewise
stating why they are not — leaving an independent panel to
decide the schools’ fate.
“It leaves us waiting for the 180-day (waiting
period) to expire (around mid-December) and the state to step in
and give us some guidance,” Trojans coach Chris Vold said.
“We need a little help getting in somewhere or getting a schedule.”
The Trojans scheduled road trips to Kingsford,
Mich., and St. Paul Como Park this year as well as using a bye week
after failing to fill an eight-game schedule.
Detroit Lakes coach Flint Motschenbacher, whose
team beat Central 34-17 in its final trip to PSS, empathizes with
the Trojans’ situation.
“The Coaches Association and the (MSHSL)
are working on it, but it’s tough to please everybody,”
he said. “Us outstate people are kind of stuck; there’s
only so many schools our size up here.”
Vold says Central’s enrollment — the
students move permanently to Denfeld next year — will decrease
over the next two years, making it a better fit for the Sea-Range
if that conference expands to large and small divisions as it had
years ago with the Super Sea-Range.
“In two years, there’s no reason why
we couldn’t fit with a Hermantown or a Cloquet; we’re
not going to be that much bigger,” Vold said. “People
are piggybacking us with Duluth East, and we’re apples and
The MSHSL recently reclassified Central into Class
AAAA after it had been placed in the largest class for football.
East, which remains in Class AAAAA, is in a similar struggle to
find a home.
“The last thing we want to do is make waves,
but at the same time we’re struggling so bad to find games,”
East AD Shawn Roed said. “We’re trying to find a place
that works for everyone. Our ultimate goal is to find a place like
that, but we don’t know where that is yet.”
Grand Rapids’ scheduling woes were alleviated
after accepting a one-year offer to be an unofficial member of the
Wright County Conference.
Other options are under consideration. A vote
could be taken at next week’s MSHSL board meeting to allow
what’s termed “zero week” scheduling, which would
allow schools to schedule games a week before the traditional opener
as long as they take a bye week later in the 2011 season.
“That’s garnered enough support and,
I think, enough people think that’s a way we can help people
right now without coming up with a whole new system,” MSHSL
associate director Kevin Merkle said Friday. “It’s kind
of a quick fix for some schools.”
The MSHSL also is considering a playoff format
change that would alter many schools’ schedules. Two plans
are up for consideration, both which essentially amount to section
scheduling. One allows for a nine-game schedule, seven against section
opponents, and reduces the playoff qualifiers by half — similar
to Wisconsin’s system — while the other keeps an eight-game
format, seven against opponents in the same section.
“There are schools that like the section
concept because they are struggling with schedules and spend a lot
of time on it and still can’t get games,” Merkle said.
“For others who don’t have those problems, they are
concerned that one of the big disadvantages is that it increases
travel. Others are concerned because it changes who you play.”
Merkle said a football task force has been formed
and it might make a recommendation to the MSHSL board in December,
and, if passed, would go into effect for the 2012-13 school year.
Around that same time, the Duluth schools should
find out where the MSHSL will place them.