Mixed feelings on athletic conference realignment

Sam Kaufmann, Opinion Editor

Next year’s football matchups will look a bit different than past years. Why? After Watertown and Beaver Dam joined the Badger Conference in 2017, it was decided to revisit the conference alignment after two years. The conference athletic directors and principals group released their report last September on their changes. The changes will take effect in football starting next year, followed by all other sports in the fall of 2021. The conference will now be split into the Badger West and East, with north and south divisions for each. The west north division includes Baraboo, Reedsburg, Portage, and Sauk Prairie. The west south division consists of Edgewood, Monroe, Mount Horeb, and Oregon. Badger East North Division is assembled of Waunakee, DeForest, Beaver Dam, and Watertown. Rounding out the Badger East South Division is Milton, Fort Atkinson, Monona Grove, and Stoughton. 

One reason indicated for the change is travel times. Travel miles are supposed to be “more equitable” to reduce travel on school nights and maximize athlete study time, as well as creating more “close” contests. However, Waunakee will be relatively unaffected by the change. While there won’t be as many visits to the current furthest away destinations of Monroe and Reedsburg, Waunakee will still have to make the 50 minute trip to Beaver Dam and 55 minute trip to Watertown. There will likely be more travels to Watertown now that they are in Waunakee’s division. It will be nice to not have to head to Mount Horeb, Fort Atkinson,  Milton, or Baraboo as much due to their distance, as well as Oregon due to heavy Beltline rush-hour traffic. Other schools like Monroe will still have long drives for games, with their nearest division member Mount Horeb located 45 minutes away. So in reality, the argument of travel times being reduced with the change seems inaccurate.

In addition, schools will be better aligned by enrollment with an East/West setup. Seven of the eight “large” schools are in the East division, and seven of the eight “small” schools will be in the West division. However, we won’t be playing as many games with longtime foes like Sauk Prairie, Monona Grove, and Oregon.