Lakeland Conference set to move forward

Published 6:24 pm Thursday, April 28, 2011

With the final domino finally having falling into place, both the Wolverine and Lakeland conferences can move forward.

For the better part of five months now, the Lakeland Conference has been in limbo as four of its schools were being courted by the Wolverine.

With Thursday’s vote by the Wolverine Conference Board of Governors to extend only Edwardsburg an invitation to join the league (see related story this page), the Lakeland can now begin the process of deciding if it will stay with only six teams or continue to look at possible expansion.

But the most important thing the Lakeland can do now is begin scheduling for the 2012-13 season.

“I am happy for Edwardsburg as competitively it is a great fit for them,” Smith said. “Hopefully, their schedule will allow them some flexibility in non-conference scheduling and we will be able to keep them on our schedule as much as possible. We have a great relationship with Edwardsburg and we hope to continue it.

“As far as the Lakeland Conference, we can now move forward with scheduling for 2012-13 as a six-member conference. We have been down the road of expansion for several years and there is no perfect fit. If a school district is interested in joining the Lakeland Conference, I am positive we would give them full consideration. At the present time, Buchanan is perfectly comfortable in remaining a six team conference.”

Cassopolis athletic director Bob Guse agreed with Smith.

“It’s beneficial to have less changes potentially before us than more,” he said. “We have had many contingency meetings within the Lakeland Conference about where things might be going. Going back at least three years we have been looking at expansion opportunities. We were looking at expansion opportunities when the Wolverine Conference came calling.”

Guse said that the past 60 days the league has been in a holding pattern. He was glad that the league can now move forward.

At the other end of the spectrum, Dowagiac athletic director Scott Lawler is pleased that the process has finally run its course.

“You need to have the superintendents, principals and ADs all come together,” Lawler said. “We have so many schools and each one of them wanted what was best for the conference and what was best for each school. It was a long process, but I think we got the best result.”

Lawler said that a variety of numbers were on the table when it came to expansion. In the end, adding just one school and remaining a 10-team league seemed to be the best option.

“I think our ideal number was originally 14 schools, which would have help with scheduling, transportation and it was a good fit. We wanted to stay as close to a ‘B’ league as possible. We had a hard time coming up with another school to get to 14. If we went with 12, then someone was going to be left out. If we went to 13, then you have issues with scheduling. Ten made the most sense after we went through all that.

Lawler, like Allegan athletic director and Wolverine Conference league secretary Gary Ellis both said that all four schools that were being considered were quality institutions.

But in the long run, the decision to add just one school should be a win-win situation for both the Wolverine and the Lakeland.

“As a group, I think we were trying to keep in mind that we were looking out for what was the best interest of everyone. We also were looking out for kids in general,” Lawler said. “This decision fills our needs and it keeps the Lakeland Conference intact, which works out for everybody.”

The Lakeland Conference met on Wednesday to begin the process of working on scheduling for 2012-13.