Is the CSAA heading in the right direction?

Coaches provide their pros and cons on the new alignment

Ryan Hansen is Reed City's athletic director.

Ryan Hansen is Reed City's athletic director.

File photo

BIG RAPIDS – Central State Activities Association coaches have various reactions when it comes to getting ready for the 2022-23 season.

Fremont, Holton and Hesperia have left and the others remaining are Big Rapids, Reed City, Morley Stanwood, Chippewa Hills, Central Montcalm, Tri County, Newaygo, Grant, White Cloud, Lakeview and Kent City.

For football, Kent City, Morley Stanwood, White Cloud and Lakeview will be in one division and the larger one will have the other seven teams.

In other sports, it’s slated to be one division with sports such as basketball, volleyball, baseball and softball slated to have league tournaments toward the end of the season, similar to what boys and girls soccer have right now.

Big Rapids boys basketball coach Kent Ingles has been with the Cardinals close to 20 years and has seen various formats in the CSAA.

“I’ll have to see how it unfolds,” Ingles said. “11’s an odd number. I am guessing more changes will happen in next few years. Many other conferences are revamping as well. There is no perfect conference. Even within conferences things continually change with enrollments, administrations, outside influences and community developments.”

Reed City athletic director Ryan Hanson also gave his thoughts.

“I liked being split into Gold and Silver, but we couldn't work out a way to retain that structure,” he said. “With the teams that were left, we would have had seven teams in the Gold and four teams in the Silver. No teams were willing to move to the Silver, so the only other logical decision was to combine. Keeping all schools together in the CSAA gives us flexibility no matter whether a current school wants out or a new school wants in.

The biggest change will be with basketball. We used to play each school twice within our conference, home and away. Now, we will only play each school once for conference play, but we added a conference tournament at the end. Had we played each team within our conference twice, we wouldn't have had any non-conference games.”

Hansen admits there are both pros and cons.  

“I think the conference tournaments in basketball will be fun. It will give us extra experience in a tournament atmosphere heading into the post season,” Hansen said, adding on the other hand, “I think anytime the enrollment gap between teams in a conference grows, it generally will create a bigger variance in talent from the top of the conference to the bottom.

“Going off our high school enrollment numbers from last year, our new conference alignment ranges from 245 students to 573 students. So our largest school is over double the size of our smallest school in our conference.”