New Ulm to vote on new conference

NEW ULM – This Thursday, the District 88 School Board will vote on whether or not to join the new Big South Conference (a combination of both the South Central Conference and the Southwest Conference) will be taken.

And by all indications, New Ulm will vote to join the conference.

And why it is probably good for most sports, there are two sports – and in fact two of New Ulm’s most successful sports the past few years – that may take a direct hit from it.

Both boy’s and girl’s hockey have expressed concerns about the new conference.

NUHS boy’s hockey coach Erik Setterholm has been very outspoken about the new conference and it’s long-range impact on the hockey program.

“I will be honest and say that it is the wrong direction for the hockey program to go,” he said. “It is not good for us all at. What has been built here over the years of New Ulm having high school hockey and trying to get us better.”

That has meant that over the years New Ulm has tried to schedule tougher non-conference opponents. It is no secret that in order to get better you need to play the best competition that you can.

It has meant knowing that you will probably get beat. But the reverse side of that is the fact that you are giving your kids the chance to improve by playing up a step.

“We have teams like Orono and Providence Academy and The Blake School wanting to play New Ulm is a testament to you doing the right thing for your program,” said Setterholm. “Us playing in the new Big South Conference is a step backwards and probably 10 steps back. It is wrong for New Ulm hockey.”

It is even more of a problem for the New Ulm girl’s hockey program. New Ulm is the heavy favorite to repeat as Section champions again. And all of the teams in the section would be members of the Big South Conference. Look at the past scores of section games New Ulm has played in.

But what options does the hockey program have?

Setterholm said that there is the possibility of one of the co-op schools be the host school.

“We would be called New Ulm Cathedral or Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s and they would be the host school,” he said. “We would play in their conference and since they do not have hockey in their conference, we would play an independent schedule.”

He said that he has not talked to anyone about that.

“Another option is that the school board when they vote will understand where we are at and let us not play in the conference for hockey.”

Setterholm did say that potentially playing an independent schedule in hockey is “very feasible. It would be easy to do.”

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