Fergus football declines invite to HOLPublished 10:56am Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Over the past several years, the district has been forced to play catch up in enrollment with other schools in the Central Lakes Conference. That will continue despite an invitation to join the Heart of Lakes Conference for football and previous discussion over leaving the CLC altogether.
Because of a CLC rule against joining different conferences in individual sports, the board voted down the invitation to join the Heart of Lakes Conference on Monday night. While the conference might have offered better opportunities to compete as participation numbers continue to decline, board members were swayed by reports from a majority of the district’s coaches that the competition and ease of travel within the CLC is a better fit for Fergus athletics.
Despite protests from smaller schools, the CLC recently adopted north and south divisions based on geography and not school enrollment. Superintendent Jerry Ness said the district will continue to push for divisions based on size within the conference and section based football conferences with the state high school league.
Fergus is the smallest school in the CLC, with an 2013-2014 enrollment of 647. The largest, Brainerd, has an enrollment of 1,616, with five other schools over 1,000 students. Coaches who advocated leaving the conference said the differences in those numbers are too great to stay competitive.
In a work session following the meeting, activities director Gary Schuler discussed the possibility of eliminating certain sports to boost numbers in others. Schuler and the board, however, had their doubts.
“I don’t think it is true to assume that would happen,” Schuler cautioned. He also suggested the possibility of losing students to other districts if smaller programs were cut.