After expanding last school year to include Newaygo, the Central State Activities Association is going to expand again.
The conference voted to add three more schools to the ranks, and also decided to separate into two divisions.
The three schools that will be members of the CSAA next school year will be Tri County, Grant and Kent City.
Tri County and Grant, like Newaygo before them, are leaving the Lakes 8 Conference. Kent City is leaving the O-K Silver Conference.
“We’re very excited about it,” Tri County athletic director and varsity football coach Phil Butler said. “We’re excited to reunite some of the old rivalries. We’re looking at it as just overall it will be better for our school system, our athletes and our parents.”
Central Montcalm Athletic Director John Kearney and Lakeview Athletic Director Tom Wilcox also liked the move.
“I think it helps all schools,” Kearney, the CSAA commissioner, said. “I think it makes our league balanced with the smaller schools and the bigger schools. I think it’s a plus and it made our league that much stronger.”
“I think it’s a great addition,” Wilcox said. “It will give us more league competition in some of the league sports like boys and girls soccer since all the new schools have those. Same with golf and cross country. They’re adding more sports.”
Butler said the Lakes 8 will continue with a new school replacing the two that left.
“The Lakes 8 will stick around,” he said. “They have brought in Muskegon Catholic Central so that will be the sixth school. So the Lakes 8 will stick around. I wish them the best of luck.”
Butler said travel “will be cut in half” by joining the CSAA.
“The Lakes 8 was a good league,” he said. “I respect all those schools the utmost. But It’s time for Tri County to change and I think the CSAA will be good.”
The conference will split into two divisions, the Gold and the Silver, based on the size of the school. The Green Hornets, Vikings and Tigers will be a part of the Gold Division while the Eagles and Wildcats will go to the Silver Division.
“I think when it comes down to it every school had their choice on wether they had to go to the Gold or the Silver,” Kearney said. “Football dictates it. We’re not breaking up, we’re trying to make it stronger. A lot of it came down to football as it usually does.”
That’s fine with Wilcox.
“I think that evens out the playing field for competitiveness,” he said. “But at the same time we have enough non-league dates in the schedule where we can schedule some non-league games that are close enough to us. So it offers both of those opportunities.”
All three ADs agree the new CSAA will be very competitive.
“I think the CSAA will be competitive across the board in all sports,” Butler said. “The Lakes 8 will be competitive and the CSAA will be very competitive.”
“It’s very competitive,” Wilcox said. “For example, we had Hesperia in wresting. They’re one of the smallest schools in the league. Within the divisions it’s going to be very competitive in nearly every sport.”
“I think our league has been pretty competitive when it steps outside in tournaments,” Kearney said. “We’ve won quite a few state championships with Morley Stanwood and Hesperia. I think it will help everybody take it up a notch so that everyone will be competitive.”
Kearney noted Fremont originally accepted an invitation to join the CSAA but changed their mind and will stay in the Lakes 8 for two more years.