SAGINAW — With all of the movement and school closings in recent years in the area, several local high school sports leagues have gotten quite a facelift. That is most true of the Saginaw Valley League, which has seen quite a bit of change in the past five to six years.
The Valley has lost schools due to closure, added schools, split into divisions and even lost a school to another league. Now the SVL has announced a radical configuration amongst the divisions, however, the change will only occur on the football field.
“We’re adding Lapeer and Flushing is leaving; that’s the main change,” said Pete Ryan, athletic director at Saginaw Heritage and SVL commissioner. “But as far as league configurations, we’re still discussing that. At this point, that’s the only change that’s going to happen other than we’re going to make some changes with football to eliminate some byes, but all of the other sports at this point are going to be the same way. (The new configuration) is for football only.”
The alignment will remain the same in other sports as far as the north and south divisions go. However, in football, it will now be the red and blue divisions.
The red division will include Bay City Central, Carman-Ainsworth, Flint Northwestern, Lapeer, Midland, Mt. Pleasant and Saginaw Arthur Hill while the blue division will be comprised of Bay City Western, Davison, Flint Powers Catholic, Flint Southwestern, Midland Dow, Saginaw and Saginaw Heritage.
“One reason is balance; to get some balance as far as sizes go so that one school isn’t stuck playing one sized school throughout their division,” added Ryan. “Also from a standpoint of eliminating byes from schools within the league so that we didn’t have one division that had the bye all the way through.”
Despite how it may seem, the idea wasn’t brand new. In fact, it had been previously proposed to the league. The real head turner in the new configuration, though, was the fact that almost every natural rivalry was split up by the new alignment.
“We used a format that actually the coaches had presented previously and we went with that format, basically, because it made it easier as far as travel wise and so on,” stated Ryan. “It kept the travel equal for the schools and also they still play their rivalry school but it wouldn’t be a part of their league schedule. We had full support from the league.”
Even with the abundance of changes that the SVL has experienced in recent years, there still may be more changes ahead. In fact, it’s something that the league is looking into.
“We’re always looking at changes and I think we’ll be discussing some of those changes as we move forward,” Ryan said. “We’d love to find more schools, but at this point, we’re trying to do what’s best for the league top to bottom. Obviously, adding Lapeer gives us another school with a full compliment of programs, so that’s a bonus.”
Hopefully for the sake of the league, though, those changes won’t include anymore schools exiting the SVL for any reason.
“Obviously we’ve lost two schools from that standpoint (Flint Northern and Flushing),” concluded Ryan. “Long term, hopefully we don’t lose any others but you never know with the way budgets are. We have to be prepared to make changes as we go.”