Conference Realignment and Scheduling

By Chris Schultz and Frank Vajcner

As we hit the dog days of summer, football news is pretty slow at least until August when camps start.

However, this summer is not one of those times, especially with two conferences we cover on the blog.

Doug Donnelly reports that Adrian Madison is leaving the Tri-County Conference for the Lenawee County Athletics Association. The move will take effect for the 2023-24 academic year.

In addition, Brooklyn Columbia Central is leaving the LCAA for the Cascades Conference.

This got us to thinking what could this mean for teams on the blog?

Chris and Frank give their thoughts.

Frank: What Realignment Means on the Local Level

With the Tri-County Conference soon to be down to only four members for 11-man football, the question now becomes what will be the next move?

Let’s start by looking at who will be left in the TCC for 11-man football. There would only be just four schools; Erie Mason, Whiteford, Sand Creek, and Summerfield. Bear in mind that Morenci and Britton-Deerfield are members for other sports, but play 8-man football. 

While there are conferences in Michigan with four or less members for 11-man football (Big North and Michigan Metro Athletic Conference), having such a small conference makes scheduling a nightmare. For the TCC, teams have either had to schedule out-of-state opponents or get someone in-state from a long distance away. 

Only Sand Creek has not had to schedule any opponents outside of Michigan. The other four have scheduled Pioneer North Central out of Ohio, who is playing 11-man football for the first time ever. Madison has scheduled Ottawa Hills, while Erie Mason has scheduled Fremont from Indiana. 

How will this shake out in the future? It’s hard to say based on what we know, but I have some ideas on how to make this work, along with some pros and cons. DISCLAIMER: I’m just throwing stuff at the wall.

Plan A: The TCC aligns with the Toledo Area Athletic Conference for football.

PROS: There have been serious discussions between both conferences, per Mark Monroe of The Toledo Blade. The TAAC, as it is better known as, has only six members who sponsor football; Northwood, Cardinal Stritch, Edon, West Unity Hilltop, Montpelier, and Ottawa Hills. Adding four schools would solidify the conference. We have seen an example of this with the Catholic High School League adding schools from Toledo, now a conference from Ohio can return the favor.

CONS: Enrollment is the biggest issue on the football side, as all of the football-only members are much smaller, which would hurt the Michigan schools in terms of getting playoff points. Travel is another issue, with Edon, Hilltop, and Montpelier all being further west. This also does not solve the issue of other sports.

Plan B: The TCC and LCAA merge and form two separate divisions.

PROS: This may not be a far-fetched idea. It would make sense logistically, as all TCC teams are fairly close to most of the LCAA schools (Hillsdale is the outlier, and there may or may not be chatter going around about their future). This would also reunite Erie Mason with old rivals Ida and Dundee. As for who goes where in what division, one could either go geographic with an East and West Division, or split up the schools based on enrollment and go with whatever division name they like (Leaders and Legends, Red and White, Cat and Dog, Hall and Oates…you get the picture).

CONS: The biggest is enrollment. Madison has 408 students, which already has them fitting in nicely in the LCAA. Erie Mason (353) also fits, but Whiteford (262), Sand Creek (251), and Summerfield (168) all come in with a lower enrollment than the smallest school Hudson (280). Blissfield (388) and Clinton (375) also have less than 400 students. How will the cutoff be decided if divisions were to be split up by enrollment? And much like with Plan A, small schools typically don’t help generate playoff points for football.

Plan C: The SEC absorbs the LCAA and TCC, and puts them into separate divisions.

PROS: Okay, this is my own crazy idea, but hear me out. There are already conferences in Michigan with more than two divisions, so what will another one hurt? The SEC has 14 teams combined with the Red and White Divisions, and if they add 12 more schools, they could split them into a Blue Division and a Green Division (or whatever colors they fancy). Scheduling would not be a huge problem, as teams could pick from the other divisions if they desired, and could get some playoff points.

CONS: Again, deciding the enrollment cutoff is one issue, but it doesn’t stop there. As someone who is involved with a school in the SEC, the schools from the larger cities have a tendency to look down upon those from smaller towns. You also have to consider that the SEC schools have more sports to offer. Plus, we have already seen one super-conference that involved local teams fail in the Michigan Mega Conference, which is a completely different topic for another time.

As for what would happen with the Huron League and Downriver League, it’s been quiet. But since we are throwing ideas around, could someone like Riverview or New Boston Huron bolt for the Downriver League? Could the Huron League pluck Ida and Dundee from the LCAA? Or do we have another form of a mega-conference like the Ottawa-Kent, Macomb Area Conference, or the Oakland Activities Association?

Those are questions that I want to pass on to you, the reader.


I have different thoughts regarding conference realignment and scheduling. I believe it is ridiculous to change entire athletic conferences based on one sport (football). Football only represents approximately 12.5% of the overall participation numbers of the 28 MHSAA tournament-sponsored sports. (I used the 2018-2019 participation numbers because of the pandemic affecting the participation rates the last few years. Football had 35,412 participants that year, while the MHSAA had an overall participation number among those 28 sports of 281,992.)

I believe conferences and leagues should consider all sports when considering any sort of realignment. I understand that scheduling is the biggest issue when it comes to football and sometimes being in a league, especially a league with enrollment disparities among the members, can create issues for schools, most notably when it comes to the playoffs. Ask Division 3 Riverview (9-0 in 2021) if playing Division 7 SMCC in league play helped them secure a home playoff game? (They opened the playoffs at 7-2 Allen Park).

Quite frankly, if people looked closely at why many leagues have changed or realigned, they would find that they could quite possibly have committed Title IX violations. Making decisions that affect all student-athletes for the benefit of football is short-sited and quite possibly unintentionally criminal.

I have a different idea. I believe the governing body of high school sports here in Michigan (the MHSAA) should take a look at how Texas does high school football and playoffs. The Texas governing body (University Interscholastic League) has put its entire membership of football schools into districts and subsequently Regionals based on geography and size and then they are put into divisions 1 through 6. Some districts have 6 teams, others 7 and others 8. Each year every school plays everyone in their district and then the top 3 or 4 teams (based on district standing) from the district qualify for the playoffs.

What I would like to see the MHSAA do is almost the exact same thing. Create no larger than 8 team districts based on relative size and geography and then play 7 games against the teams in your district. The top 2, 3 or 4 teams would make the MHSAA playoffs. All the teams would then be put into 8 equal divisions of 32 teams.

In my 8-team district scenario, this would leave each team two non-district games to play against traditional rivals not on the schedule or to play a marquee match-up against a like opponent. (In Texas, many times during week 1 of the season you will see the top teams in the state match up against one another) Who wouldn’t want to see preseason #1 play #2, #3 play #4 and so on down at Ford Field or at Michigan or Spartan stadiums? These games would not count toward making the playoffs. Only district games would. Imagine the hype over these games though.

Now some could argue that if we just allowed everyone into the playoffs we wouldn’t have these scheduling issues. We might not, but I believe we would create different issues. Let’s say everyone makes the playoffs, as some have suggested. This would eliminate week 9 of the regular season because we would add one more week to the playoffs. This would create a scenario where poor teams would be matched up against really good teams in week 1 of the playoffs. In 2021, I highly doubt that UPSM (0-8) would have been happy playing Detroit King (7-1) in the first round of the Division 3 playoffs. I would argue that they would have opted out of the playoffs, leaving them and King with one less game. The same could be said for my Division 6 Advanced Tech Lakers. We were 0-8 after 8 weeks last season and would have most likely ended up matched against somebody like Michigan Collegiate at 6-2. That game wouldn’t have been good for anyone Instead week 9, we were able to play UPSM and have a competitive 22-20 game between 0-8 teams.

If the MHSAA would step in, we could save conferences that serve the other 88% of student-athletes and create a football system that ensures everyone plays 9 games and has a fair and equitable chance at making and competing in the playoffs while creating marquee games and traditional rivalries.

Let us know what you think!

9 thoughts on “Conference Realignment and Scheduling”

  1. Will Hillsdale stick with the LCAA or go independent or to the Cascades?

    Will Hudson stick with the LCAA or go to the Cascades?

    Will Manchester stick with the cascades or go to the LCAA or Tri County?

    Will morenci go to the Big Eight Conference (who just lost Homer and Jonesville to the Cascades Conference)?

    Will Sand Creek go to the Big Eight Conference?

    Will Stockbridge stick with greater Lansing or switch to the Cascades?

    What divisions will any of these conferences have?

  2. Grosse Ile Dad

    Polarizing take but what do we think about Grosse Ile joining a Canadian high school football league? They’re right across the river and with the inevitable downfall of these Michigan conferences that’d be a wise move in my opinion

    1. Are you drunk? Do Canadian teams even have leagues? Theres about a dozen options any Michigan high school team could choose before that. Grosse Ile will win 2-3 games in the Huron League, then I am not sure who they play for non-league. Here is to hoping that their numbers have improved from last year.

  3. How long until SMCC is forced out of the Huron League? They are the smallest by far and don’t help Riverview, Milan, or Airport with playoff points. Maybe if SMCC opted up to D6 or D5 I could justify them staying in the league.

    Honestly, I eventually see conferences for football becoming a thing of the past and football going to “district scheduling” based on enrollment and geography, similar to how states like Texas do things.

    1. Let’s take a look at the trends for each school in the HL as far as student population.

      Milan – enrollment has dropped every year since 2014. Down to 655 from a high of 1016 in 2011.
      At this current rate, they will be D5 in 2-3 years.

      Airport – 100 student decline over the last 5 years.

      Flat Rock – heading towards D6 over the next year or 2. Dropping 167 students since 2017.

      GI – 98 student decrease since 2016.

      Riverview – enrolment decreased 122 students this year alone. Dropping them to D4.

      Jefferson – 170 decline in enrolment since 2015.

      Huron – 105 student decrease since 2018. Although they do seem to be in the best shape. No real trend.

      SMCC – 44 student increase since 2017. But an overall decline over the last 10 years.

      Seems numbers are dropping everywhere with only SMCC showing a recent upward trend.

      I’ll touch on the Riverview situation as I have many times.
      They are the big dog on the block, well they were until this year, as Huron has just topped them.
      View has dipped to D4, which will greatly help the playoff point issue. They no longer, this year at least, will have to worry about Allen Park or River Rouge come playoff time.
      Instead their district may include: Airport, Milan, Annapolis, Union, DDC. Far different feel than D3.
      The Pirates did the right thing by scheduling Monroe in week 9. Dropping the Redford schools, whom wont help them at all.

      Does a D3/4 team playing a D7 team help them? In general, no. However, if the D7 school typically wins a lot of games, then the sting is far less.

      For example:
      By beating a 3-6 (D5) Jefferson team, Riverview received 52 playoff points. By defeating an 8-1 (D7) SMCC team, View received 54 playoff points.

      Also, let’s not forget, replacing SMCC and FR with 8-1 and 7-2 D2 teams, still would have not been enough for View to pass Carlson in 2021.

      6 weeks to kickoff!

      1. Nice job Gary… as usual.. a lot of people get on this blog and don’t know sh#@t about football or what the hell they are talking about.. good luck to all the teams this year and stay healthy..

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