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St. James Plaindealer - St. James, MN
  • A look at the Gopher Conference

  • If the Gopher Conference accepts the Saints as a member of the conference, then the Saints would begin play in the Gopher Conference in the 2014-2015 school year. Acceptance is a big if because that requires unanimous approval by seven of eight conference schools before SJA could be admitted.
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  •     Last week the St. James School Board approved a resolution to petition the Gopher Conference for admission to that conference for all sports.
        It’s time to take a look at the Gopher Conference and compare it to the South Central Conference.
        If the Gopher Conference accepts the Saints as a member of the conference, then the Saints would begin play in the Gopher Conference in the 2014-2015 school year. Acceptance is a big if because that requires unanimous approval by seven of eight conference schools before SJA could be admitted.  
        One significant reason some school or schools would vote against SJA is the Saints would become the biggest school in the Gopher. Right now SJA is classified as having 349 students. NRHEG (New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva) is the largest Gopher school at the present time with 264 students.
        For comparative purposes, SJA is the second smallest school in the SCC. BEA has 322 students. The other SCC school enrollments are St. Peter with 492, Fairmont with 494, Waseca with 522 and New Ulm with 589.
        Assuming the enrollment of a school usually favors schools with larger enrollments over schools with smaller enrollments, one can see why some would favor St. James Area leaving the SCC.
        After NRHEG, the schools and the enrolments of the Gopher Conference members are WEM (Waterville-Elysian- Morristown) with 251 students, Medford with 215 students, UCA (United South Central) with 210 students, Blooming Prairie with 198 students, FBA (Faribault Bethlehem Academy) with 195, JWP (Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton) with 164 and Randolph with 161.
        Using the same size assumptions, one could see why more than one school in the Gopher might vote not to allow SJA in that conference.    
        If the Gopher Conference accepts the  request by the School Board to have SJA join the conference, then the St. James School Board has to accept the invitation.
        One is distance the Saints would have to travel to play against Gopher Conference Schools. Using mileage provided by the St. James activities office, a review of the two conferences first shows that Waseca is the SCC school farthest away from St. James. That distance is 68 miles one way.
        The farthest away Gopher school is Randolph at 111 miles one way. Randolph is northeast of Northfield.      
        There are three other Gopher schools that are farther away than Waseca. FBA is 83, Medford is 87 and Blooming Prairie is 89. The closest Gopher School is JWP that is 57 miles away from St. James.
        Adding the distance of the SCC schools and dividing it by five, the average distance to an SCC school is 48 miles one way.
    Page 2 of 2 -      The average one way distance to the Gopher schools is 77.5 miles. Those numbers mean that on average a Gopher school is more than 60 percent farther than the average SCC school. That would not necessarily be the average distance every year because not every Saints team would be traveling to the farthest away schools every season.
        Randolph plays nine man football, so the Saints would never travel to the school farthest away from St. James for that sport.
        The other issue is not all of the Gopher Conference schools offer all sports.
        None of the eight Gopher Schools offer girls gymnastics.
        None of the schools offer boys tennis. Just one of the eight schools offer girls tennis. This means if SJA were in the Gopher that none of these teams would be able to compete for a conference championship like the other SJA teams.
        The three teams without a conference would have to try and develop an independent schedule each year.
        A conference gives a team a guaranteed number of teams that will play them. At the height of a season most teams play conference schedules and may not be available to play SJA. The Saints gymnastics and tennis teams might have a hard time scheduling opponents over the course of their seasons.  
        If the Gopher Conference votes to accept SJA into the conference, then travel and competition for all Saints teams are some of the issues the School Board will likely consider before accepting an offer from the Gopher Conference.    
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