Hot Corner: FRCC football realignment
By Rich Palzewic
GREEN BAY – With the football-only Fox River Classic Conference realignment set to begin with the 2020 season, things will get a lot more interesting for several area teams.
With the new FRCC changes, it appears the days of 63-0 blowouts may be limited once the realignment takes effect.
Heading to a high school game and watching a team lead by 40 points at the half is no fun. Honestly, I’d rather stay home.
In the new plan starting in 2020, the FRCC-1 Division will consist of Green Bay Preble (enrollment 2,184), Bay Port (1,894), De Pere (1,360), Green Bay Southwest (1,193), Pulaski (1,077), Ashwaubenon (992) and West De Pere (951).
The FRCC-2 Division will have Sheboygan North (1,801), Manitowoc Lincoln (1,491), Sheboygan South (1,347), Green Bay East (1,261), Menasha (982), Green Bay West (848) and Notre Dame Academy (767).
“The upside is, West De Pere, De Pere, Pulaski, Ashwaubenon, Bay Port, Southwest and Preble are going to play one another,” said De Pere athletic director Jeff Byczek. “That’s positive, and those are good rivalries. It’s a tough schedule for sure, but it will provide more excitement than what it does now. I get the downside, but it was a big puzzle to put together when you’re talking about the entire state. I like who De Pere will play.”
Winners of 27 straight FRCC contests, one can mostly exclude Bay Port from this conversation.
The Pirates will be one of the top teams in the state this season and probably for several years to come.
I think there’s a better-than-average chance it will bump its conference winning streak to 36 straight this season.
Regardless of who they play, the Pirates can beat teams 63-0.
Like Bay Port, Preble will always be in a position to make the playoffs based on its sheer size.
West De Pere will move from the Bay Conference after finishing runner-up in the 2018 WIAA Division 3 state championship game.
I’m sure Manitowoc, Sheboygan North, Sheboygan South, Green Bay East and Green Bay West are happy to be placed in the FRCC-2.
A few of them have a legitimate shot at being playoff contenders for the first time in many years.
Positively, it would be good for their program and possibly get more athletes to come out for football in the future, but it could also be an example of a weaker team qualifying for the playoffs over a more-qualified team from the other division that didn’t make it.
I’m not sure that’s a good thing.
“We will find out if the changes are good for certain teams,” Byczek added. “A 4-3 conference record in 2020 will be a lot different than what a 4-3 record in 2018 was.”
Programs go through ups and downs.
It’s possible that in five years Bay Port will be mediocre, and Manitowoc could return to its glory years of the mid-1980s when it won three consecutive state championships and a then-record 48 straight games.
It could happen, but it’s hard to imagine that right now.
This is not a knock on any program, but Sheboygan North, Sheboygan South, Manitowoc and Green Bay West have been counted on for easy wins.
Games against those four teams have been used to rest injured players and play backups for half the game.
In the last five seasons, Manitowoc (12-33), South (7-38), North (2-43) and West (1-39) have won a combined 22 conference games for a 13-percent winning percentage, and a number of those 22 wins have come against the other struggling teams.
Green Bay East (9-31) has also had problems in the last five seasons.
Ashwaubenon, who has qualified for the playoffs 21 consecutive seasons, will have a new coach this season in Brian Ryczkowski.
The Jaguars’ road will be more difficult in 2020.
The same can be said for De Pere, Southwest, Pulaski and West De Pere.
West De Pere is very interesting.
Phantoms head coach Jack Batten wasn’t overly pleased with his team’s placement in the FRCC-1, but I think they will be fine.
West De Pere beat Notre Dame in the playoffs last season and has an increasing enrollment.
There’s no arguing the Phantoms’ road got more difficult, but if the 2018 season is any indication, they will continue to excel.
The most interesting school in my mind is Notre Dame, who will be members of the FRCC-2.
The Tritons are a perennial state power in Division 3 every year and have held their own in the rugged FRCC in the past.
On paper, they will have a significantly easier path to the playoffs in 2020 as compared to past seasons.
Most associated with Notre Dame will say they have loved playing against the “big boys” in Bay Port and Preble every year – it makes them tough and ready for the postseason in a smaller division.
The Tritons are 36-9 in the last five seasons in the FRCC.
They have beaten Preble every season in that span.
If Notre Dame can hang with Bay Port in the regular season, why would a school with a similar enrollment in the playoffs scare it?
Clearly, the Tritons don’t care how big a school is, as indicated by the fact they will play the Pirates in non-conference games in 2020-21.
“I think the way the FRCC-2 was originally set up with De Pere, West De Pere and us was pretty attractive in terms of competitiveness,” said Notre Dame head coach Mike Rader. “When the final realignment came out with Green Bay East and Green Bay West switched to the FRCC-2, that was interesting. Those are local games for us, but all of our other games are outside of the area. Much of the fun for our student body on Friday nights is seeing many of the kids they went to school with growing up. Some of that will be lost without playing more of the local schools. You want conferences to be competitive – you don’t want to win every game, but you also don’t want to lose every game. As a whole, I think the balance for the conference is good.”
Area fans have 16 months to ponder the plan before it becomes a reality in August of 2020.
Although I don’t want to wish time away, I’m not looking forward to seeing 63-0 games for another season.
The 2020 season can’t come fast enough.
2007 – Ashwaubenon, De Pere, Bay Port (all had 7-1 records)
2008 – Notre Dame
2009 – Bay Port
2010 – Ashwaubenon
2011 – Manitowoc
2012 – Southwest
2013 – Ashwaubenon
2014 – Bay Port
2015 – De Pere
2016 – Bay Port
2017 – Bay Port
2018 – Bay Port