Starting in the 2021-22 school year, Stoughton will no longer be in the same conference as Oregon for all sports.
The Badger Conference principals and athletic directors announced Monday, Sept. 30, a conference realignment plan for all sports except football that would go into effect in the 2021-22 school year.
The conference will realign with an East/West format, according to a release from the conference. Stoughton is being placed in the Badger East Conference’s South Division and Oregon in the Badger West’s South Division.
Football has a separate realignment plan that changed schools in the Badger, Big Eight and Rock Valley conferences. The plan will take effect next fall.
“It wasn’t about what would be the best for Stoughton,” Stoughton athletic director Mel Dow said. “We did it for the overall well-being of the conference. Some power may shift a little bit. There is a lot of competitive balance in the 16 teams in the conference and it ebbs and flows. I don’t think how you split it will make a great difference for all teams across the board.”
When Watertown and Beaver Dam joined the Badger Conference in 2017, the principals voted to re-examine conference alignment after two years.
The conference principals in the fall of 2018 directed the athletic directors to review the alignment, taking into account geographic locations, the distance each school travels, school size and competitive balance.
In spring 2019, the athletic directors proposed an East/West Division format. That proposal was approved by the principals at their April meeting.
The rationale behind the move is that the East/West alignment creates a more equitable distribution of total miles traveled throughout the conference, according to the release. Reduced travel on school nights was a priority to minimize missed class time for student-athletes.
Dow said a study showed that splitting the conference East/West and into North and South divisions reduced travel for outlier schools like Monroe, Watertown, Reedsburg, Watertown and Beaver Dam.
The East/West Divisions better aligns schools, according to enrollment with the East containing seven of the eight “large” schools and the West containing seven of the eight “small” schools. Oregon and Fort Atkinson are the exceptions.
“I think we will still be strong in some programs and looking to improve in others,” Dow said.
Over the course of this year, athletic directors will create scheduling concepts to utilize the four-school divisional format, aligning it to the specific scheduling details for each sport.