A community meeting was held last Thursday to discuss options regarding what sports conference St. James Area may be aligned with in the future.
This meeting was held as a step in a sports conference review process that began when a group of parents and Saints fans appeared at the November St. James school board meeting seeking options for the Saints football program. Many people at that meeting expressed the belief the football team could not be competitive in the South Central Conference (SCC).
This feeling was based on the enrollment size of the St. James, Butterfield-Odin sports pairing arrangement compared to the enrollment size of the larger SCC schools. It was also motivated by the actual results on the field, where the Saints have had a hard time winning games against SCC teams.
The discussions at that meeting caused the School Board to form a committee to consider options for football, and all the sports programs if necessary.
One option that was discussed at the committee meetings was leaving the SCC (schools of the SCC are Waseca, St. Peter, Blue Earth, Fairmont and New Ulm) for football but remaining in the conference for all other sports.
The Southwest Conference (SWC consisting of Jackson County Central, Luverne, Pipestone, Redwood Valley, Windom, Worthington and Marshall) was one option considered by the committee. Marshall’s football program was leaving the conference, but Marshall will remain in the SWC for all other sports.
A meeting was held on Jan. 16, between representatives of the SWC and the SCC where there was a discussion on merging the two conferences for football with two divisions for football. The divisions would be based on enrollment with a small school division and a large school division. This option was not agreed upon.
A scheduling partnership for football was agreed to between the two conferences with two crossover games between the two conferences.
This means this fall the Saints will play Pipestone Area on Friday, Aug. 23, and will play Windom on Friday, Aug. 30. Both of these are home games.
With a big school, small school arrangement between the SCC and the SWC not moving forward, then the other option SJA wanted to advance was to ask the SCC to give SJA the right to have just the football program leave the conference.
This would require a unanimous vote approving this by all the schools of the SCC. Both St. James School Superintendent Becky Cselovszki and Athletic Director Les Zellmann said that they were told that two schools would vote no on this kind of a request by St. James.
Page 2 of 2 - If the SCC did not allow SJA to have the football program leave the conference, then the next step would be for SJA to inform the SCC it was leaving the conference for all sports programs. No aproval is needed by conference teams for a school to take this action.
There are several steps that would have to happen before a ‘leaving the SCC’ move was made.
This is how these steps may play out. According to Cselovszki, an action item will be placed on the agenda of the School Board next week where the Board will be asked to approve a motion to request the SCC for SJA to have the football program leave the conference, while remaining in the SCC for all other sports.
The day after the St. James Board meeting, the last SCC meeting of the year is scheduled to take place. St. James could take any board action to that meeting. If the Board approved the request to leave the conference, then that request would be presented at the SCC meeting.
If the SCC would vote not to approve, as is expected, then the ball would be back in SJA’s court.
It would be expected that then there would at least be a discussion of the options at the April Board meeting. That could include staying in the SCC or approving a motion that would inform the SCC that SJA would leave the conference.
If there were a motion to leave the conference, then SJA would have likely been assured that SJA would be accepted by the SWC or the Gopher Conference.
Both of those conferences have been sent letters of inquiry on whether those conferences would be willing to have SJA join one or the other conference as a member for all sports. It seems unlikely SJA would leave the SCC if another conference hasn’t at least informally agreed to accept them.
Any move to another conference would not take affect until the 2014-2015 school year.
The SJA varsity head coaches have been informed as to how this process has been proceeding. They have also been polled as to their thoughts on the conference options SJA is considering.
All twelve coaches were comfortable with the Saints having the football program leave the SCC, while keeping all other sports in the conference. Just three of the twelve coaches did not want to leave the SCC. Opinions were split on whether the SWC or the Gopher was a better home for the Saints.