That’s been about the only constant in what has been a rocky process that has dragged on for months.
O-K Conference bylaws stipulate that the league looks into realignment every four years. Realignment suggestions are made based on several factors, primarily enrollment.
The latest realignment plan calls for six six-team divisions, one seven-team division (the O-K Gold) and an eight-team division (the O-K Blue). Currently, all divisions consist of eight teams.
The realignment calls for the O-K Red, which currently features Grand Haven, Grandville, East Kentwood, Jenison, Hudsonville, Muskegon, Rockford and West Ottawa, to lose two of those teams — Muskegon and Jenision. Muskegon would move to the O-K Black while Jenison would join the O-K White.
The realignment process is a tedious one, according to conference commissioner Jim Haskins, but the current push has been particularly cumbersome.
“We set up divisions, then a committee makes a recommendation to the athletic council,” Haskins said. “All 50 athletic directors take a vote, and all we need is a simple majority from them. Once it goes through there, it goes on to an executive board, with one member from each division, and it has to be OK’d by three-quarters of the voters to take that motion to the principals.”
Three quarters of the schools’ principals must approve the realignment for the measure to be put before the 50 member schools’ boards of education.
The principals’ vote has been a sticky one in the current realignment process.
“We started in May, and so far, three of the ballots have gone down by one vote,” Haskins said. “Right now, the athletic directors have passed it, and the principals have voted 38-12 to approve the realignment, which would start next fall. It’s at the boards of education right now.”
Earlier this week, the Grand Haven Board of Education voted against the realignment. Grand Haven also voted no during the athletic directors and the principal votes.
“It’s really driven by football and by the playoffs, and doesn’t factor in how it impacts other sports,” Grand Haven athletic director Jack Provencal said.
Provencal explained that moving to a six-team division would make scheduling difficult especially in football, where teams typically play seven league games and two non-conference contests.
“We’re in a 50-team conference, and one of the reasons you’re in a mega-conference is scheduling convenience,” Provencal said. “If we lose Muskegon and Jenison, we’re losing long-time rivals, very spirited competition. We’ll end up picking up two schools that are farther away.”
Under the currently-proposed plan, O-K Red football teams would each play each other once, giving them five conference games. They would then play a crossover game against the O-K Black and the O-K White, leaving them with two non-conference games to fill.
“The hard thing when dealing with the Red is, you go from just under 1,700 at Hudsonville up to 2,800 at Kentwood,” Haskins said. “Jenison’s numbers are down, so they’re playing schools twice their size. Then you get schools like East Grand Rapids and Lowell, who are very successful, but Kentwood is three times their size.
“It all boils down to football and the almighty six wins (required to make the playoffs).”
Haskins said he’s never encountered such a battle in a realignment process.
“We’ve never had a vote defeated like this,” he said. “It’s very frustrating when you know you have 40 votes, then people change their mind or they don’t show up, which becomes an automatic no vote. Last time we voted, we had seven people switch their votes. I just don’t understand why they’re not communicating.”
If three-quarters of the conference’s school boards vote in favor of the current realignment plan, that plan would go into effect for the 2012-13 school year.