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Scott Novak: Closed schedule may not be a help

Published 3:06pm Thursday, November 15, 2012

One of the things that most excited me when I heard that the Wolverine Conference was expanding to 12 teams was the possibility of a football schedule with a couple non-league dates.

Another thing I wanted to see was a conference title game. Something that made a big splash like it being played at Western Michigan University.

Of course, as we all know now, my hopes and dreams were crushed by the fact the Wolverine decided to continue to play a closed schedule.

I have long held onto the hope that one day Dowagiac would be able to resume its rivalry with Niles. I still am disappointed that the Chieftains and Vikings had to cut off one of the longest rivalries in the state just for the sake of conference realignment.

But leaving that aside, I am now of the opinion after watching not only the Wolverine Conference playing a closed schedule, but the Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference as well, it does not prepare the football teams for post-season play.

Football is all alone in this problem. Every other sport has at least a couple of non-conference games in which teams can schedule an opponent it will see in the state playoffs or at the very least, one who will challenge the team and get it better prepared for what lies ahead.

I have argued this point with several people in reason weeks. I also have had a few people agree with me.

Those who oppose my way of thinking point to Three Rivers winning a state championship a couple of years ago and getting to the state finals on another occasion.

But those instances are few and far between if you ask me.

Those who agree look at a team like Dowagiac, who has one district championship to its name over the last decade and a handful of losses against teams from outside of the Wolverine Conference fold.

Teams like Grand Rapids South Christian, Lansing Catholic Central and Battle Creek Harper Creek.

Perhaps if the Chieftains were allowed to schedule two non-league games, it could match up with a SMAC team such as Niles, Lakeshore or St. Joseph. Maybe they could schedule a Grand Rapids area team like Hamilton or South Christian so they could see what they are going to be up against.

The SMAC has a similar problem. No matter how good a Lakeshore or a St. Joseph seems to be during the regular season, both had struggled when it came to beating a Grand Rapids or Zeeland area team in the regional round of competition.

Now it may sound like I’m bashing the Wolverine and SMAC conferences, but that’s just not the case.

I think both conferences provide solid competition in all the other sports. I’m just not sure when it comes to football they get teams ready for the post season.

I know athletic directors may not want the hassle of trying to find one, two or three non-league games. The ability to have a closed schedule takes the pressure off of them.

But I do have to wonder how far they want to see their football teams go in the playoffs?


Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at

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