This is a difficult “opinion” to write. I don’t want it to sound like a rant or a case of “sour grapes”. If you read this and feel that way, it’s fine. I understand completely. Here it goes. It’s time for Whitehall to leave the West Michigan Conference and it’s for their betterment.
Back when Whitehall joined the conference, I think the mid 80’s, they were one of the smallest schools in the now defunct Seaway Conference. Most likely, they were tired of being battered and bruised by teams located in the Greater Muskegon area. It was probably a good move for them then, but now, it time to find a conference with larger schools and a more competitive schedule.
For most high school sports, everyone qualifies for the post season tournament. Everyone gets at least one game. Most of these sports use the traditional class A thru D classification. So, it does not matter what your record is or how many bigger schools you play. You are going to districts and match up with other schools in your class size. Football is different. Football follows a Divisional classification. Instead of four divisions, there are eight. Not everyone makes the post season playoff. You need six wins if you have a nine game schedule or five if you have an eight game schedule. There are some exceptions to this rule. Some with fewer wins may get in depending on the number of qualifying teams and strength of your schedule. But for most, the “magic number” is six. With a nine game schedule, there can be some gentle “massaging” of your non conference games. For instance, you may try and schedule a couple of competitive games to pick up a win or two. It is not uncommon for some West Michigan Conference teams to have their only wins coming from non conference games.
The West Michigan Conference is considered by some of not many, the best “small school” conference in the State. Several state championships have been won by this conference. Muskegon Oakridge and Montague have been more recent winners. Ravenna had a nice run in the 90’s. The 70’s North Muskegon was a power house in football, using the A-D system. So when you look at your upcoming schedule you are already looking at the likes of Oakridge and Montague. Then, there is Whitehall. For Oakridge and Montague who are football schools, Whitehall is a competitive game. For the other teams, Whitehall if given the choice would never be on their schedule. Quite frankly, Whitehall should not want to play them.
As stated before, the West Michigan Conference is a “small school” conference. So, let us take a look at the numbers. Specifically, the class size if each school.
Montague 445
MCC 438
Hart 365
N. Musk 327
Ravenna 344
Shelby 383
Musk. Oak. 571
Whitehall 669
*class size information from
Going by these numbers and past playoff divisional placement, most fall into division six. Muskegon Oakridge is division five. Quite possibly, a couple of teams fall into division seven. Whitehall who has made the playoffs the last few years, falls into division four.
If you are trying to build and successful and competitive program, what is the point of playing division seven and six teams? What can you take from a 46-16 win over MCC and 59-0 over Hart? Not to mention Shelby is just down the road. How does beating teams like these help you improve? Possibly, the reserves get to play. How does this ready yourself for a division four playoff run? Moreover, what happens if a division seven team like Ravenna hands you a loss? To me, Whitehall has everything to lose and nothing to gain playing in the West Michigan Conference. Whitehall, if you truly want to build a football program, maybe it is time to look to a different (bigger) conference. Where you can take pride in your victories and gain wisdom and development for defeat.
This opinion piece is Whitehall moving into a bigger conference for the development of a program. I’m well aware of the scheduling conflicts that may occur for the schools of the West Michigan Conference. Finding a third non conference football game for their schedule. There will still be lopsided victories. The West Michigan Conference will still be an extremely competitive conference without Whitehall. But it may add a more competitive game for some of the other schools.
I think it is time the athletic directors of the West Michigan Conference sit down and have a real “heart to heart” conversation with Whitehall. There are too many schools struggling in this conference to build a successful football program, it is a daunting task when you are a division six school facing one from division four.

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Replies to This Discussion

The numbers I get from the enrollment list for 2017/2018 are (keeping your order):  409, 349, 378, 313, 352, 372, 592 and 661.  I would dare say that both Oakridge and Whitehall have a distinct advantage in potential talent.  And perhaps we see why NM is not as competitive as it once was, since it now has the smallest pool.

The MHSAA does have some movement between classes each year (see here), but you just don't see a lot of changes in conference teams, perhaps since class sizes can be fluid and interconference tradition/rivalries are seen as important.  

Your point is definitely worth considering if a comprehensive conference shuffling is done by the MHSAA to reflect the realities of changing demographics.  Switching Whitehall (and even Oakridge) with another real class C school might bring a new era of competitiveness to the WMC, even if it has the negative of taking away better chances for a state champion. 

There are two other solutions as well. One, reduce regular season to 8 games and allow everyone into the playoffs. The extra week might be enough time and keeps conferences intact. Two,eliminating conferences. Allow schools/AD to schedule games that are close to the same size or at least in the same division. 



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