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Red Wing makes bid to join Big 9 conference

The Red Wing School Board laid the framework for a return to the Big 9 Conference after giving activities director Matt Schultz the go-ahead to apply for the conference in a 7-0 vote on Tuesday night.

The Missota Conference is in a state of disarray, with Farmington leaving for the South Suburban Conference, while Shakopee has applied for entry in the South Suburban. Chaska and Chanhassen also have explored other conference options. Other members of the Missota Conference include Academy of Holy Angels, New Prague and Northfield.

"I don't think there's much chance the Missota stays intact after next year," Schultz said prior to Tuesday's meeting.

The members of the Big 9 include Rochester John Marshall, Rochester Century, Rochester Mayo, Faribault, Winona, Owatonna, Austin, Mankato East, Mankato West and Albert Lea.

"If you look at the enrollment size, the district and who we play in section tournament play, I think it's pretty clear that the Big 9 would be a good fit for us," Red Wing Supt. Karsten Anderson said.

The Classic Suburban Conference was briefly considered as an option, but the School Board agreed that the Big 9 would be the best fit.

The Classic Suburban includes Henry Sibley, Hill-Murray, Mahtomedi, North St. Paul, Richfield, Simley, South St. Paul, St. Thomas Academy and Tartan.

"We are one of the smaller (schools) in the Big 9," Anderson said, "but we still think we're a better fit with those schools than St. Thomas Academy or Mahtomedi."

Schultz said he has not had any conversations with the Big 9 schools, but hopes Tuesday's decision spearheads the Wingers' return to the Big 9 after leaving for the Missota Conference in 1985.

"I don't know if they've made a decision (for expansion)," Schultz said of the Big 9. "They want to set themselves up for the conference to run for a while. Hopefully we'll know sooner rather than later."

One major hurdle remains: The Big 9 schools must vote unanimously to let Red Wing gain entry into the conference during its spring meeting. Any conference changes would take place in 2014-15.

"I think this is the most logical (decision)," said Board Chair Heidi Jones said. "We make the first step, then the ball's in their court."

If the Big 9 rejects Red Wing's application, School Board members indicated they will contact the Minnesota State High School League for conference affiliation, a scenario Schultz is hoping to avoid.

"You always like to be in a position to choose the place that fits the best for you," Schultz said. "Conference-wise, (the Big 9) fits us the best."

R-E staff writer Sarah Gorvin contributed to this story.

Joe Brown

Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.

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