Conferences changing/Paul Peterson

Some big changes will be coming up for local sports conferences in the next year or two.

The Copper Country Conference will welcome Republic-Michigamme into the league for the 2014-15 season next month, according to Lake Linden-Hubbell High athletic director Gary Guisfredi.

The Hawks, who had previously been a member of the Skyline Conference, will compete in girls’ and boys’ basketball and probably track and field.

Guisfredi said Republic-Michigamme officials had some concerns about the extensive travel involved in the move.

“But they decided that since they were a small school district that wasn’t growing, the Copper Country Conference would be their best choice to compete in,” he said.

Ironically enough, this isn’t the first time sports teams from Republic and Michigamme have been in the same conference with local teams.

In 1963, the original Mid Peninsula Conference was formed. Chassell and John A. Doelle joined Republic, Michigamme, National Mine, Champion and Negaunee St. Paul in the league.

The original MPC, which also included baseball, was a very strong basketball league. Take 1963, for instance.

In that season, Champion finished as the top Class D team in the state in the Associated Press poll. Negaunee St. Paul upset the Indians in the district finals and made it all the way the state championship game before losing by two points.

Of course, school consolidation reared its head later in the 1960s as the schools in the league begin to drop off.

Doelle closed as a high school in 1968 and Michigamme, St. Paul, Champion and National Mine soon followed.

Westwood High was formed and took in some students from the western Marquette County schools. Republic later consolidate with Michigamme.

The Great Western Conference also is facing realignment in the very near future. That was assured when Ontonagon officials decided to begin eight-man football next fall.

All reports are that Baraga will go one more season with 11-man football and then switch to 8-man for the 2015 season.

Baraga athletic director Jeff Markham has indicated that school officials were willing to play one more season in the current GWC.

The GWC could also lose Hurley, Wis. in the near future. In Wisconsin, playoff berths go automatically to schools that win a conference. The departure of Ontonagon and possibly, Baraga, from the league could put the Midgets’ league status in doubt.

Unofficially, Ironwood and Norway are potential schools that might join a re-configured Great Western.

The loss of Ontonagon from the GWC has forced other league teams to fill vacancies on their schedules for next season, however.

LL-H has already signed L’Anse to fill its 2014 vacancy – creating a rematch of the teams that met in the opening round of the Division 8 playoffs in 2013.

And should Baraga join Ontonagon in eight-man football, they would rejoin former league member Ewen-Trout Creek, which has been playing 8-man for a couple of years.

Finding another small school in the western U.P. might create a cozy four-school league in the sport, which has been growing statewide.

As they used to say in the radio business, stay tuned for the latest.