Traverse City Record-Eagle

Prep Sports

September 1, 2013

Lake Mich., Northwest conferences could merge

TRAVERSE CITY — A proposal to merge the Lake Michigan and Northwest conferences in football will be addressed by representatives from the schools at a meeting next week.

The proposal, which includes current independent St. Francis, calls for two seven-team divisions, based on enrollment. The large school division would include Boyne City, Grayling, Elk Rapids, Kalkaska, St. Francis, Kingsley and Benzie Central. The small school division would group Harbor Springs, East Jordan, Charlevoix, Suttons Bay, Glen Lake, Mesick and Frankfort.

If the proposal gains acceptance soon, it could go into effect as early as the 2014 season.

Asked if talks were serious, Elk Rapids athletic director Jim Standerfer said, "We've got enough things on our plates that we don't need to spend time on something if we're not willing to do it."

Schools would play the other six teams in the division, plus one crossover game that could protect a rivalry.

Frankfort, for instance, would like to keep playing county rival Benzie Central, Dave Jackson, secretary-treasurer of the Northwest Conference, said.

Boyne City, which has rivalries with East Jordan and Charlevoix, could use a crossover date for one, and a non-league date for the other, Standerfer said.

The potential merger would address enrollment disparities in the two leagues. In the Northwest, enrollments range from 517 at Benzie Central to 152 at Frankfort.

"Benzie Central and Kingsley are looking for bigger school competition," Jackson said.

The gap in the Lake Michigan ranges from Grayling at 494 to East Jordan at 302.

The downside to the proposal, officials said, is that would increase travel for several schools.

The upside, they said, is that schools would be playing league foes more equal in size.

"We're trying to meet everybody's needs," Jackson said.

Standerfer said school officials could think outside the box to alleviate travel concerns, too.

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