Change ahead

SMAC realignment occurs after 4 schools leave the conference

Andrew Stone, Staff Writer

Starting next school year, the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference (SMAC) will undergo major changes yet again. Portage Northern, who has been a member since 1977, will be one of 12 schools that the league will retain. Coldwater, Harper Creek, and Marshall all are going to join a new conference, while Sturgis will move to the expanding Wolverine Conference. In effect, the league will switch to two, six team divisions. The West division will consist of BentonHarbor, Niles, Portage Central, Portage Northern, St. Joseph, and Stevensville Lakeshore. That leaves Battle Creek Central, Battle Creek Lakeview, Kalamazoo Central, Loy Norrix, Mattawan, and Gull Lake on the East side. “I think it improves the overall competitiveness of the conference. Getting rid of the smaller schools will help us be prepared for the tougher games against bigger schools,” Blake Therrian (11) said. For Northern and Central, this means continued trips of at least an hour for divisional games, while all of the East teams are within 30 minutes. Because the SMAC wanted to keep the Portage schools together, Mattawan was put in the East division, even though they are farther west than Northern and Central. In terms of road trips, Mattawan came out the luckiest by not having to go to the schools by the lake shore of over an hour away for in division games, which are played more often.

The West division’s competition level just got even tougher for all sports, but especially football. St. Joe, Lakeshore, Northern, and Central all compete every year for the conference title and again will all be on the same side. The East now has five teams with losing records, while the West had five with winning records. The competition imbalance doesn’t just end in football. Every school on the West has been historically more competitive than the schools in the East. The way the league aligned the divisions was probably the only logical way to make everybody happy, but time will only tell if the league will be better off, or if schools get frustrated by the travel and competition issues that could arise.