Mississippi 8 conference set to expand

Next year, with Becker leaving the Mississippi 8 Athletic Conference for the Granite Ridge conference, Mississippi 8 will be down to six teams for 2012-2013. Princeton and Zimmerman left the formerly nine-school conference for Granite Ridge two years ago, but now Princeton, along with St. Francis, Chisago Lakes and North Branch will be joining the six remaining Mississippi 8 teams (Monticello, Big Lake, Buffalo, STMA, Cambridge-Isanti and Rogers) for a revamped 2013-2014 lineup. Princeton will be returning to Mississippi 8 for some events this coming school year, as they have found shortfalls in their ability to find enough competition for some sports within the Granite Ridge conference.
Superintendent Jim Johnson said he knows there has been some concern about adding Chisago Lakes and North Branch into the mix, since it will be over 100 miles round trip to these farther school districts. To help mitigate these additional miles, Johnson said they will be doing an east-west split in the conference, so the schools will be playing their nearest neighbors more often than the more distant conference members. That situation will change only for some of the bigger sports, such as basketball and football, said Athletic Director Gary Revenig, because enrollment is very important in these sports. They hope to split the conference more by size and ability versus by location to attain a good competitive balance within the conference.
“Going through this process, you have to find the right combination,” Johnson said. “So when you take a look at a school like Princeton, they might not have been willing to come back in if you didn’t have Chisago Lakes and North Branch. We looked at a lot of different combinations … and this was the combination that worked for everybody.”
The process to restore and rebuild Mississippi 8 has been a long road, with many meetings among leaders and athletic directors from different schools within the conference and outside of it.
“My biggest fear was that, if we didn’t do something, we have St. Michael-Albertville, Rogers and Buffalo, who are larger districts, who the west metro would like to see going to parts of western metro conferences,” he added. “It’s disappointing this conference stayed as it was for such a short period of time, that was great for us, but this keeps us intact.”
In other business:
Voted to refinance general obligation school rebuilding funds, which is estimated to save the school district $97,000 over the course of the loan.
The board’s next meeting will take place at 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 13.