Red Wing waits on potential Missota changesThe Missota Conference is in flux as Farmington and Shakopee look to enter the South Suburban Conference
By: Joe Brown, The Republican Eagle
In a matter of days, the Missota Conference stands on shaky ground.
The Shakopee school board gave Activities Director John Janke the go-head to apply for the South Suburban Conference on Monday night. Then on Tuesday night, the principals of the 10 South Suburban Conference voted unanimously to accept Farmington’s application to the conference. Pending its board of education’s approval, Farmington could join the South Suburban in the 2014-15 school year.
The South Suburban Conference includes Apple Valley, Bloomington Jefferson, Bloomington Kennedy, Burnsville, Eagan, Eastview, Lakeville North, Lakeville South, Prior Lake and Rosemount.
“We’re in a unique situation where we’re becoming a school that looks less like a Missota school and more like this group of schools,” Farmington Athletic Director Jon Summer told the Farmington Independent. “I feel it is a really god fit for us moving forward.”
Looking at a shrinking conference and its closest conference foe (Farmington, 39 miles) on the way out, Red Wing finds itself in a precarious position. Along with Red Wing, Farmington and Shakopee, the Missota Conference includes: Academy of Holy Angels, Chanhassen, Chaska, New Prague and Northfield.
“This definitely adjusts our conference quite a bit,” said Red Wing Athletic Director Matt Schultz. “If we lose two schools, being a six-school conference isn’t probably real viable.”
The idea of leaving the Missota Conference has been brought up before for Red Wing, but Farmington and Shakopee looking to leave the conference has created an added a sense of urgency for the Wingers to find their own solution.
“We’ve had conversations for five years about looking at if we fit in the Missota Conference,” Schultz said. “Do we fit elsewhere? Do we fit in the Big Nine? Do we fit in the HVL (Hiawatha Valley League)? Where do we fit?
“It would make sense to be a Southeastern Minnesota school, because that’s what we are,” Schultz added, “but no matter where we look at the conference that would have us, we’d still be one of the smallest schools.”
In the 8-team Missota, the Wingers are the second-smallest school behind Holy Angels, a private school. According to the Minnesota State High School League, Red Wing has an enrollment of 809 students, way behind rest of the Missota schools, which have an average enrollment of 1,250.
With Shakopee and Farmington potentially on their way out, the Missota could accept other schools. But with three schools currently over 70 miles west of Red Wing, Schultz is concerned on what direction the conference would grow.
“It’s getting to that point now that if the Missota is going to grow, they’re going to grow from the west edge of the metro,” Schultz said. “And for us, that’s another trip over 80 miles through the metro area. … At the last School Board meeting I was at, I said that with our location and losing our nearest competitor, we’re on the wrong side of I-35 for the Missota Conference now.”
Among the options Schultz has explored are the Big Nine, Hiawatha Valley and Suburban East conferences. Prior to joining the Missota in 1985, the Wingers were a member of the Big Nine Conference.
The Big Nine Conference comprises Albert Lea, Austin, Faribault, Mankato East, Mankato West, Owatonna, Rochester Century, Rochester John Marshall, Rochester Mayo and Winona.
“We’re a Southeast Minnesota school. We’re Section 1 in everything,” Schultz said. “Our competition is the Rochester schools, Winona, Albert Lea, Austin, Faribault and Northfield, and some HVL schools that offer those sports.”
But looking outside the Missota poses several issues, according to Schultz: The HVL does not have teams in sports such as hockey and swimming and diving, the Suburban East has an average enrollment of 1,808, and the Big Nine Conference may not be interested in expansion.
As Farmington and Shakopee plan to possibly leave the Missota Conference, Red Wing is left seeing how things pan out.
“There’s not a great fit for us with the size of our school, but with that said, we’re happy continuing our membership in the Missota playing the teams we’re playing,” Schultz said. “They offer the things we offer and it makes for good scheduling for us. We’ve competed in a lot of things in the Missota Conference.”