If Ripon and Berlin have their way, they will be competing in a new conference in the near future.

The two neighboring and rival high schools submitted a proposal to move from the East Central Conference (ECC) to the South Central Conference (SCC).

While the plan was voted down 14-1 by the WIAA Conference Realignment Task Force last month, the schools plan to continue to push forward.

Ripon and Berlin will appeal the decision to the task force at the WIAA’s regular meeting Thursday, Jan. 13.

The rationale for the action taken by the task force was the absence of feedback included in the proposal from a large group of impacted schools. Additional feedback from conferences and schools impacted by the plan was encouraged and is being worked on by administration from both Ripon and Berlin.

According to Ripon High School Athletic Director Bill Kinziger, “The purpose and rationale for this conference realignment request is to provide our student-athletes with competition against schools that are similar to Ripon in demographics, size, academic and fine-art offerings.”

He noted that Ripon and Berlin approached the task of moving from the East Central Conference to the South Central Conference with academics, arts, clubs, and finally, athletics in mind.”

Ripon High School enrollment

This table shows Ripon High School’s enrollment over the past five years, as well as its projected enrollment for the next five years.

Another reason for Ripon wanting to make the change is the school’s decreasing student population as Kinziger said Ripon’s “enrollment is trending to be less than 440 students within five years.” This comes after it had 558 students during the 2017-2018 school year. It has 519 students this year.

Kinziger also noted there is more than a 30% increase in free and reduced lunch numbers and that Ripon’s special education population has increased by nearly 20%, causing a significant change in clientele.

Competitively, the Ripon athletic director said that Ripon has been near the bottom, on average, in all sports combined in the East Central Conference recently, and that continually finishing last can have a detrimental impact on school culture.

Kinziger noted that Ripon and Berlin have had ongoing conversations about changing conferences ever since Campbellsport was granted relief from the ECC by the WIAA two years ago. The two schools also know of other conference schools that have been having similar talks with other conferences.

“We want to get out in front of this and proactively determine our outcome as opposed to being ‘placed’ somewhere by the WIAA,” Kinziger said of the reasoning for proactively seeking the change.

He added conference realignment is a big puzzle and any move that one school makes impacts multiple schools and conferences, and that’s the biggest obstacle facing schools seeking relief from the WIAA.

Kinziger said that Ripon and Berlin initially asked the Flyway Conference, which is where Campbellsport moved to at the start of this year, if it would like to include them, but it was not interested in doing that.

After that, he noted it made sense to ask their neighbors to the west, the SCC, and that the SCC voted unanimously as a conference to allow Ripon and Berlin to join. Teams making up the SCC for all sports except football include Adams-Friendship, Mauston, Nekoosa, Wautoma, Westfield and Wisconsin Dells.

Football schools that make up the SCC consist of Adams-Friendship, Mauston, Montello/Green Lake/Princeton, Poynette, Wautoma, Westfield and Wisconsin Dells.

Ripon currently is part of the ECC, which includes, for all sports and activities with the exception of football, Berlin, Kettle Moraine Lutheran, Kewaskum, Plymouth, Waupun and Winneconne.

For football, Winneconne is replaced in the ECC with Port Washington and Sheboygan Falls.

Ripon has the second-lowest enrollment in the non-football ECC with 519 students, a number that Kinziger only expects to decline. Berlin has the lowest enrollment with 495 students. In the non-football SCC, Ripon would become the second-largest school, while Berlin would be the fourth-largest.

Kinziger noted that Ripon and Berlin ideally would like to see the change from the ECC to SCC made as soon as possible, but the decision is in the hands of the WIAA Conference Realignment Task Force.

(1) comment

Robert Miller

Ripon is in a very good competitive conference. All schools have up and down years based on student athletes at that time. Going to the SCC and beating up on those schools only makes those schools wish to realign to another conference.

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