Schools leaving NSC leads to trouble for the conference

At the conclusion of the 2012-2013 school year, the North Suburban Conference will lose three of its member schools to the Mississippi Eight Conference. Chisago Lakes High School, North Branch High School, and St. Francis High School will each depart the conference, beginning their time in their new conference in the fall of 2013. This change to the North Suburban Conference will mean immediate adjustments coming next fall, but may even result in further transformation for the conference in coming years.

Effects of the withdrawal still remain unclear, but some are more confident than others. “I don’t believe it will have a big effect on the conference,” Spring Lake Park Athletic Director, Mr. Matt St. Martin.

While Mr. St. Martin, Athletic Director at Spring Lake Park, stays optimistic, BSM’s Athletic Director Mr. Pettinger views the absence of the three schools more cautiously. While the North Suburban Conference will still hold eight teams, the future looks somewhat bleak. “I would say that if things go the way they are going the NSC would definitely look a lot different in the future or non-existent,” Director of Athletics and Activities, Mr. Jerry Pettinger said.

The issue lies in two of the most prominent sports in the conference: football and hockey. With the past success of Totino-Grace’s football team and Benilde-St. Margaret’s boy’s hockey team, both decided to go independent. With North Branch, St. Francis, and Chisago Lakes out of the picture, that leaves just five hockey teams, while Columbia Heights struggles to annually produce competitive athletic teams and elected to move to independent last season in football. This leaves only six teams in the NSC, including Benilde-St. Margaret’s, for the two sports’ upcoming seasons.

One option for keeping the conference alive may be adding more schools, but that is a matter that has not been officially brought up. “We could try to explore adding more teams to the conference, but right now that is not a real possibility,” Mr. Pettinger said.

As BSM explores its options, it may become difficult to find a new conference should the need arise. With successful sports such as girls’ soccer, boys lacrosse, and girls’ hockey, other conferences may not wish to allow entrance to BSM. This also applies to activities such as Speech, which competes handily with larger schools. Despite this, BSM will not decide to go independent overall.

I would say that if things go the way they are going the NSC would definitely look a lot different in the future or non-existent”

— Mr. Jerry Pettinger

Prior to membership in the North Suburban Conference, BSM was a member of the short-lived Metro Alliance Conference, largely made up of high schools from western suburbs. In 2005, when the conference disbanded, BSM and Fridley High School immediately joined the North Suburban Conference.

For the three departing schools, the decision to leave came last spring. “We followed St. Francis and North Branch to the Mississippi-8 Conference,” said Mr. Neil Fletcher, Activities Director for Chisago Lakes High School. One deciding factor in the choice was geography, as the three schools who have withdrawn are also the furthest distance away from the metro, resulting in long commutes not only for them, but also for metro teams traveling for road games.

Since joining the sizeable conference, BSM has experienced a high level of competition and rigorous schedule. “The nice thing with a large conference is that it gave us the opportunity to do some creative things with scheduling,” Mr. Pettinger said.

Despite these scheduling changes, it is unclear as to what else may come from the withdrawal. “The disparity between teams may become more evident…The schools who are leaving were a sort of middle ground,” Mr. St. Martin said.

“There has been talk about two other schools, Cooper and St. Louis Park,” Mr. Pettinger said.

On a larger scale, the conference may see further change as other schools plan or consider exiting the conference. “If it was just us leaving, there would be no impact, but many are either leaving or looking to leave,” Mr. Fletcher said.