Even more jungle cats will soon be added to the Wright County Conference, already inhabited by Tigers (Delano and Hutchinson), Wildcats (Waconia and New London-Spicer), and Panthers (Glencoe-Silver Lake).
On Dec. 18, the Marshall Public School Board accepted an invitation to join the WCC for the 2014 football season. As a limited member of the WCC, the Marshall Tigers will compete in football only, remaining in their traditional Southwest Conference in all other athletics.
According to Waconia High School Activities Director Dave Kuehn, the Wright County Conference has been looking to split into divisions for a few years. But even divisions require an even number of conference teams.
With teams coming and going the last few seasons, the WCC settled on 11 football teams in 2012-13 with the additions of Holy Family and New London-Spicer. But the odd number of teams always leaves one team with no conference opponent on any given week. Finding teams to fill those holes are evermore difficult, said Kuehn.
“We’re getting to a point where the options to find teams around the state of Minnesota that are not in a conference are limited,” he said.
With the addition of Marshall, not only will the Wright County Conference be balanced with 12 teams, but the Southwest Conference will also become an even number (6).
“I think this a way to solve the football scheduling problem,” Kuehn said. “For football only, Marshall is a viable school.”
To compensate for that non-conference game in the past, the WCC used Grand Rapids as a scheduling partner. For the 2012 season, the WCC formed an alliance with the Granite Ridge Conference, another odd-numbered conference.
But with changes in the Granite Ridge, that conference has become even and no longer needs the extra games. Considering the travel distance to Marshall, which is nearly an hour closer than Grand Rapids, Kuehn said the Tigers are also a better match up for the WCC teams.
The WCC will surely be a higher level of competition for the Tigers, who are the only Class 4A school in their conference. They have been undefeated in the regular season the past two years, easily clinching the Southwest Conference title.
Marshall is not new to Wright County Conference intensity, as the Tigers compete in Section 2 (4A) with Glencoe-Silver Lake, Hutchinson, and Dassel-Cokato.
Waconia head football coach Pat Foley is a firm believer that the Wright County Conference is one of the toughest conferences in the state, regardless of Class, and the WCC has the titles and statistics to back up its claim.
In 2012 alone, four different Wright County teams advanced to the Class 3A and 4A state tournaments. Hutchinson and Holy Family played for the Class 4A title, while New London-Spicer and Annandale face each other in the first round of Class 3A. The teams from Delano and Glencoe-Silver Lake played in the finals of their respected sections, only to be defeated by other WCC teams.
Since 2000, teams hailing from the WCC have collected seven state titles, and have finished runners up an additional six times. Three other state titles and one runner up finish for the WCC predate 2000.
The Wright County Conference has gone through many different team changes since its inception in the 1960s. Only Annandale, Cokato (later Dassel-Cokato), and Delano have remained in the WCC through the years.
Between the 1960s and 2000, only two current teams joined the WCC – Waconia (1988-89) and Glencoe-Silver Lake (early 1990s). All other conference teams have joined in the last 10 years with the most recent being New London-Spicer (2012-13).
The Wright County Conference will officially discuss and vote on Marshall’s entry as a football-only limited conference member in January. The Tigers would join in 2014, as the 2013 schedule has already been set.