TRAVERSE CITY — Northwest Conference expansion plans appear dead in the water.
At least for now.
The eight-school league had hoped to add four additional schools — three large and one small — to its lineup, and then split into two six-school divisions.
But of the schools that received invitations only Manistee has expressed interest. The league was still waiting to hear from Kalkaska and Forest Area. It had hoped to hear from all the schools by Thursday, but the matter is still in the discussion stage at Forest Area, according to Ron Stremlow, the athletic director.
“Where do we go from here?” asked Dave Jackson, the Northwest Conference secretary-treasurer. “That’s the million dollar question. I don’t know.”
St. Francis, Elk Rapids and Onekama officially declined invitations, Jackson said.
Jackson said the Northwest Conference’s principals and athletic directors will discuss the matter at a winter meeting Monday.
“We’ll talk through what happened,” Jackson said.
“Our original plan was that we were going to try to go big (12 schools) or not go at all,” he added. “Now we’ve got to take a look at things and see where we go. The attitude of our league members was that if we could get the three (larger schools) and one (smaller) our league would be in a better situation than it is right now. It wasn’t that we were upset about where we are. Our schools are happy with the eight as it is, but we thought if we could make things better for our big schools and for our small schools let’s pursue it.”
At present, enrollments in the Northwest range from 508 at Benzie to 124 at Leland. Two of the smaller schools, Buckley (127 students) and Mesick (205), have been “up front” with the league about competitive balance and are in “the exploring process,” Jackson said.