New conference could be on the way

NEW ULM – New Ulm High School Athletic Director Chad Eischens said the South Central and the Southwest Conferences have been meeting to talk about a potential merger.

This potential merger has been reported several times in the past.

“And perhaps the word ‘merger’ is not the correct word,” Eischens said. “We would dissolve the two conferences and form a new conference: the Southern Plains Conference.”

Eischens said the serious discussion has been going on for about a month. There is no set start date for this conference as of now, but Eischens said discussions are moving at a fast pace.

“Right now, in the initial planning stages, we are going forward with a couple of assumptions,” Eischens said. “The assumptions are that all 13 schools are in and that they are in all sports that they offer.”

Eischens said that there has not been any direct talk from any school that they may not be on board for the birth of a new conference. However, part of the process of these talks is mapping out what schedules might look like.

“Once we get an idea of what the schedules look like we may have to take a look at what it means for our kids and their time in class and having to get out of class earlier,” Eischens said. “What it also means in terms of travel time and distance and how that translates into cost. There are a number of things that we have to take into consideration.”

Eischens said that initially it would be one conference with all 13 schools. But some sports may split up into east and west divisions as what Eischens called a “small-school setup.”

However, there is still a lot of uncertainty depending upon what’s best for each program.

“This might be a better fit for some programs than others,” Eischens said. “It is tough for the coaches to really have an informed opinion until we get some type of schedule put in front of us. To say this is how it is going to affect us.”

Eischens said his coaches are in the loop regarding the discussions and that they get information forwarded to them. However, anything right now is speculation.

He said that non-conference games may be eliminated depending on how schedules are set up.

“Basketball can have 26 games as your total maximum games,” Eischens said. “If the schedule is set up as a double round in the conference that is 24 conference games. If you do an east and west it would be 12 games. I do not know if it would eliminate nonconference games.”

Blue Earth Area Athletic Director Rob Norman did not comment on the proposal.

Waseca Athletic Director Joseph Hedervare said as far as he is concerned, however, the merger is going to happen.

“It is up to the individual schools as to whether or not they will be in the conference or not,” Hedervare said.

Hedervare, who is also a hockey coach in Waseca, said there needs to be some creative scheduling.

“We do not want our kids here in Waseca to be pulled out of class at 1 p.m. on a Tuesday to head to Luverne for a hockey or basketball game,” Hedervare said. “There needs to be some creative scheduling that factors in.”

Hedervare, who has been the A.D. in Waseca for four months, said that football scheduling has always been a huge issue for a lot of schools.

“There is also a lot of uncertainty of a lot of other schools’ futures inside of their respective conferences at this time,” Hedervare said. “We do not always know who is thinking what or how stable our conference is. A lot of schools are looking at this as way to stabilize the future of their conference.”

He said that being the eastern-most school in the proposed new conference causes concern about travel time and cost and the amount of time students will be traveling.

There has been a talk about all options, though.

“We are currently exploring other options for us right now,” Hedervare said. “We need to act in the best interests of our own students and our town.”

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