SWC drafts proposal to disband for football
The Southwestern Conference, as we know it, might become a thing of the past.
Central High School is headed for the Class 3A Western Slope Conference in football for the next two years after its request to play down a classification was approved.
Palisade received an exemption to remain in Class 3A instead of joining the SWC as a Class 4A football team.
That leaves only four football teams in the conference — Fruita Monument, Grand Junction in Class 5A, Montrose and Durango in Class 4A.
The conference is submitting a proposal to break itself up and create new conferences for the 2014-2016 cycle.
School District 51 Athletic Director Paul Cain has drafted the proposal, which must be submitted by Friday, but warned that it’s only a proposal — no one knows yet what will actually happen next fall.
The Colorado High School Activities Association’s football committee will discuss the proposal during its meeting Dec. 5. The proposal is for football only — all other sports will remain in the Southwestern League.
“Everybody over here is in total favor of doing this,” Cain said. “I have a lot of support in 5A. I feel like I’m kind of a lobbyist, ‘What do you need for this to happen?’ I’ve moved some other schools around to try to accommodate everybody’s request.”
The proposal has each of the four SWC teams in a different conference, which will allow Grand Junction and Fruita Monument to continue their rivalry in a nonconference game.
Montrose and Durango could still play each other nonconference, and it’s likely the Tigers and Wildcats will keep Montrose on their schedules.
Teams are allowed to play one school in the next-smallest classification and have it count as a same-class opponent when it comes to power points used to determine the playoffs.
Grand Junction football coach Robbie Owens said the proposal is good for the Western Slope programs.
“We know the other side of the mountain and the 5A schools over there have an image of what it’s like in the Southwestern (Conference) and playing football here, playing 4A teams with Central, Durango and Montrose,” he said.
“I think it puts our kids more in the limelight of playing a 5A schedule, playing 5A teams and being on the other side of the mountain a little bit more often. I think it gives us maybe a little more credibility in our scheduling when it comes to playoff time.”
It won’t make much difference in the schools’ travel budgets — Fruita and Grand Junction had five nonconference games this season against Front Range teams. Each played three on the road, two at home.
“Budget-wise it’ll be a wash,” said Ned Pollert, Grand Junction’s athletic director. “We’ve got to pick up four travel games anyway (if the Tigers go to the proposed seven-team South Metro Conference). The difference is, going to Denver is an easier trip than going to Durango. It’s a less expensive trip, it’s a safer trip and it’s a faster trip.”
By being in a 5A conference, the onus to travel isn’t solely on Grand Junction and Fruita Monument.
“We traveled over 2,000 miles this year and there are schools over there that haven’t traveled 2,000 miles in the past five years (combined),” Owens said. “It was more of a balancing act.”
Pollert has served on the Class 5A football seeding committee the past two years and said he’s at a disadvantage because he hasn’t seen most of the teams. The Tigers and Wildcats are also hindered because they haven’t been seen by several members of the committee.
Forming the South Metro Conference with Grand Junction, Arapahoe, Gateway, Heritage, Hinkley, Rangeview and Smoky Hill will help remedy that.
Fruita is in the proposed Pioneer Conference with Castle View, Doherty, Fountain-Fort Carson, Legend and Rock Canyon.
The 4A SWC schools are aligned with teams from the Colorado Springs region, with Montrose going to the proposed Southern Conference and Durango to the Pikes Peak Conference.
Cain hopes the lobbying he’s done with other district and school athletic directors will pay off and the discussion about the proposal will lead to ratification.
Palisade Athletic Director Mike Krueger is the chairman of the football committee. Cain said he’s on board, as is CHSAA Assistant Commissioner Harry Waterman, who oversees the football committee.
Bottom line, Cain said, a four-team football conference doesn’t work, and “we need to find them a home.”