CSAA looking to expand

SPORTS VARIETY: The CSAA expansion will effect more than just football and basketball. It will hopefully bring in more school to compete in sports like soccer, golf and Quiz Bowl. (File photo)
SPORTS VARIETY: The CSAA expansion will effect more than just football and basketball. It will hopefully bring in more school to compete in sports like soccer, golf and Quiz Bowl. (File photo)

BIG RAPIDS — Expansion was never part of the plan, but circumstances led the Central State Activities Association administrators down that path.

The CSAA will begin to actively accepting applications for schools that would like to enter the league at the end of the month, under a new format that has yet to be finalized.

“We weren’t actively looking to expand,” Reed City Athletic Director Monty Price said. “It’s more an approach to help current members find competitive balance and with that approach, expansion has been a recent thing.”

The smaller schools in the CSAA such as Holton, Hesperia and White Cloud have been trying to find a way of not having to play bigger schools such as Big Rapids, Chippewa Hills and Reed City.

School administrators came up with the plan of dividing the CSAA into two divisions, which at this point have not been named. Schools then got a chance to pick the division it wanted by alphabetical order.

As it worked out, the schools were almost divided by enrollment. One division features Big Rapids, Chippewa Hills, Reed City, Newaygo and Central Montcalm. The other division includes Morley Stanwood, Hesperia, Holton, White Cloud and Lakeview.

“The biggest reason (for expansion) is smaller schools in the league were tired of getting beat up in a couple of sports,” Big Rapids Athletic Director Nick Scheible said. “We know (the smaller schools) have been looking for changes and the past couple of years, nothing has fallen into place so we took a step back and looked at doing something and expand on what we have.”

While the two divisions will be under the CSAA umbrella, they will work independently of each other. There will be no crossover games unless the two schools mutually agree to play each other and will be played only as a non-conference contest.

Schools that are interested in joining the CSAA will apply to one division and the schools in that division will vote on accepting it or not. Both divisions would cap the number of schools at eight.

“That is one of the first things our conference ADs talked about,” Morley Stanwood Athletic Director Clark Huntey said. “We didn’t want any mandated crossovers. It is up to the athletic directors who they want to play.”

The current set-up would leave Morley Stanwood not playing Big Rapids, Chippewa Hills or Reed City in any sport. While Huntey would welcome the chance to play those bigger schools, he understands if the others would not.

“A lot of it will depend on how many teams we have in our division and how many non-conference games we have,” Huntey said. “If you are Big Rapids or Chippewa Hills in football, does it benefit you to play a smaller school, especially if you want to host a playoff game? That is up to them to decide.”

Another added bonus to the league, Price said, will be the possible formation of a third division for specific sports. As it stands currently, Lakeview is the only school in its division to offer soccer.

The CSAA, however, will form a soccer league combining the Wildcats with the schools from the other division. Other activities that could fall under this premise include golf and academic activities such as Quiz Bowl.

“Everyone should get the opportunity to compete for a conference championship regardless of sport or activity,” Price said.

Who will join the CSAA is still up for debate.

While there has been a lot of speculation, no school has officially applied since the league won’t take applications until later this month. The league administrators still have to go through the bylaws and the constitution to finalize the last details before accepting applications.

Scheible said he would hope the division or divisions would be finalized by the 2014-15 school year.

“Eight (schools) for a division seems to be a good number,” Scheible said. “That would give us some flexibility in our non-conference scheduling in football and basketball.”

The athletic directors were in almost complete agreement on what type of school they are looking for in joining their respective division — size, geograph and academic and athletic offerings.

It is possible that one division will have more schools than the other, but because each division is separate from each other, that shouldn’t be a problem, Huntey said.

“With the bigger schools around us, it would seem possible that three or four of them would go in the bigger division,” Huntey said. “Smaller schools, I don’t know, but sometimes you get schools you wouldn’t expect.”