Fairmont Area approves conference merge

FAIRMONT – Fairmont Area School board passed a resolution to merge the Southwest and South Central conference for athletic, academic, and fine arts activities.

The districts in both conferences have been discussing coming together for many years, but finally decided to take action when Marshall announced it was dropping out of the Southwest conference in the 2014-2015 school year.

The move would leave only six districts in each of the two conferences.

“If either conference loses one more school we wouldn’t be able to play,” said Superintendent Joe Brown. “This is the time to do it since Marshall is already leaving.”

The districts in the South Central conference have been Fairmont, St. James Area, Blue Earth Area, New Ulm, Waseca, St. Peter and New Ulm. Southwest Conference included Jackson County Central, Luverne, Marshall, Pipestone Area, Redwood Valley, Windom Area and Worthington.

Not all of the schools in the conference will compete against each other. Sports and other extracurricular teams will be matched up based on school enrollment.

Each district’s school board had to approve the merger, and Fairmont was the last one to pass the resolution.

The superintendent, athletic director, high school principal, and one school board member from each district will meet in late August to discuss the details of the newly formed conference. The formal approval of Fairmont Area’s membership in the conference will follow the meeting in August.

The conference would not become active until the 2014-2015 school year.

One of the issues the districts in the new conference would address would be traveling further to games and meets.

“We are concerned about the travel time and the expense of travel,” Brown said, adding they will work to schedule longer trips for Friday nights so late returns don’t occur on a school night.

That was part of the problem when the two conferences merged back in 2005 and 2006 as the Southern Minnesota Alliance. The arrangement applied only to football, but due to scheduling complications, it was discontinued.

The conference doesn’t just cover sports, but any activity under the banner of the Minnesota State High School league.

In other business the board accepted resignations from Jake Tietje, Eric Johnson, Brad Haugen, and Doug Larson.