CRYSTAL FALLS—Despite a few reservations, Forest Park’s School Board voted at its April 22 meeting to approve a proposed merger of the Skyline and Central U.P. athletic conferences.
The new conference is expected to be formally approved by the 10 member schools at a meeting next fall and take effect in 2014-15. (The current alignment will be used in 2013-14.)
The new 10-team conference would include all the present Skyline schools (except Republic-Michigamme, which is moving to the Copper Country Conference) plus three CUP-only schools: Superior Central, Big Bay de Noc and Munising.
Five Skyline schools are already members of the CUP.
The new conference would be split into five-team divisions. Forest Park would be in the West Division, with North Dickinson, Bark River-Harris, Carney-Nadeau and North Central. The East Division schools are Rapid River, Mid Peninsula and the three teams from the CUP.
Under the plan, the Trojans would play the other four teams in the West Division twice during basketball season. It will play the five East Division schools once each. In all, Forest Park would play 13 conference games to go with seven nonconference games.
Board President Jim Nocerini said his main concern is over Forest Park teams making the 230-mile round trip to Munising the night before a school day. “If it’s on a Friday night,” he added, “I have no problems with it.”
Superintendent Becky Waters and several board members remembered that one reason for realigning conferences was to reduce bus miles. “It’s interesting how it totally went the other way,” she said.
However, others noted, Forest Park’s bus mileage under the new plan would actually be nearly the same—Trojan teams would only travel to the East Division schools every other year. It also means, Forest Park could keep playing nearby nonconference rivals West Iron, Florence, Iron Mountain and Kingsford.
If Forest Park rejects the plan and becomes an independent school, it was noted, Trojan student-athletes couldn’t win all-conference awards and the district’s athletic director would have to assemble full 20-game schedules for both boys and girls teams every year.