CSAA set for new alignment next season

Conference will shrink from 14 to 11 schools

Big Rapids and Reed City will now be in a seven-division format for football starting in 2022-23 under the new league alignment.

Big Rapids and Reed City will now be in a seven-division format for football starting in 2022-23 under the new league alignment.

File photo

BIG RAPIDS – This week will mark the start of the final sports season for the 14-member Central State Activities Association.

League secretary and Kent City athletic director Jason  Vogel said Fremont, Holton and Hesperia will in June officially leave the conference, which had been split into an eight-team Gold Division and six-team Silver Division .

“The conference is moving to an 11-team league beginning in 2022-2023,” Vogel said. “Schedules are set and we are just working through a few other details.”

League members will be Big Rapids, Central Montcalm, Chippewa Hills, Grant, Kent City, Lakeview, Morley Stanwood, Newaygo Reed City, Tri-County and White Cloud.

The three departing members are going into the West Michigan Conference.   

Football will be split into a four-team division with Kent City, Lakeview, Morley Stanwood and White Cloud and a seven-team circuit with Big Rapids, Central Montcalm, Chippewa Hills, Grant, Newaygo, Reed City, and Tri-County. There hasn’t been any decision yet on what to call the two football divisions, although Vogel noted a 10-game conference was out of the question.

“You can’t make a nine-game schedule out of an 11-team conference,” he said.

Every football team will play each other within their respective divisions.

“The football schedules are already set for nonleague,” Vogel said. “It was hard, especially for the Silver teams who have to find six nonleague games. Kent City is playing four teams from the Gold.”

Big Rapids is playing Coopersville and Morley Stanwood in two nonleague games and is looking for a third nonconference opponent. Morley Stanwood is facing Central Montcalm, Carson City-Crystal, Newaygo, Tri County and BR for nonleague.

Chippewa Hills has Gladwin so far as a nonleague foe. Reed City has a nine-game school set with Muskegon Orchard View, Kent City and Cadillac as nonleague opponents.

There’s been some talk about the possibility of doing as was done in 2020 during the COVID year of having everyone in the playoffs which would mean eight regular-season games and a six-week postseason. Currently its nine weeks and five weeks.

In other sports, all 11 schools will play each other on one date.

“For a lot of the sports, we’ll do a tournament at the end of the season like they do in soccer,” Vogel said. “We were already doing a soccer tournament at the end where you’re seeded depending on how you finish during the regular season and play it out over a week.

“For volleyball, it would be a one-day tournament. For basketball, it will be a two-game tournament with the top four in a bracket, then the next four and the bottom three.”

There will also be a league tournament for wrestling while track and cross country will stay the same as is. There will be no tournament for baseball and softball, with all dates in those two sports being doubleheaders.

Vogel indicated in a sport like basketball there’s still an option to play the team a second time on a nonleague basis.

He said it will be varsity boys and girls the same night although it will be girls only the first week since they start a week earlier than the boys. The last week is boys only.

Most of the league games will be on Friday. The tournament will be Tuesday-Thursday. Teams will still play two games in the tournament regardless if they win or lose the first one. Vogel indicated there might be a regular-season champ and a tournament winner under this format, similar to what college conferences do, rather than declaring only the playoff victor a titlist.

“We’ve been working on all of this for a couple of months,” Vogel said. “It’s worked out so far.”

A year ago, there had been talk about Belding coming into the CSAA from the OK. That won’t happen at least for 2022-23.

“Belding kind of got cold feet in the end and they decided not to join,” Vogel said. “For a while we thought they were in and at the last second they were asking some questions which quite honestly we didn’t have answers to. We weren’t sure what was going to happen.

“I still stand with this conference. We appreciate it because it’s more than just athletics. It’s been a good fit for us.”

Vogel said there’s still hope down the road other schools might show interest in the league. For now, it’s 11 schools for 2022-23.

The MHSAA also has voted to up the number of regular-season allowable basketball games to go from 20 to 22. The preseason practice schedule goes from three weeks to two.