By: Daniel Stickradt
REPORT: Conference shifts continue around Michigan: Grand Blanc accepted into SVL; Caro, North Branch to depart TVC
BY DAN STICKRADT
GRAND BLANC — After being voted out of the Kensington Lakes Activities Association earlier this school year, Grand Blanc has found a new home.
Grand Blanc was accepted into the long-established Saginaw Valley League on May 8, and will begin competition in 2018-19. The Bobcats are the second school to be accepted to the SVL, as Bay City John Glenn announced its move last fall.
“It’s a great fit for us and it gives us a chance to (rejuvenate) some old rivals, some from the old Big 9 (Conference) days,” offered Grand Blanc athletics director Jerrod Dohm.
“We were bracing for the possibility that we might have to be an independent,” noted Dohm. “The (Oakland Activities Association) only takes Oakland County schools and the Saginaw Valley was the only other (large school) conference in our area. We are thankful that we will be joining the Saginaw Valley. Knowing that we will not only be able to fill our schedules, but to fill them with quality competition is very big of us. The Saginaw Valley has been around a long time and we will face some great competition there in a lot of sports. It’s a great fit.”
Grand Blanc, which will be the largest school in the SVL with around 2,630 students in grades 9-12, will be back with Flint Carman-Ainsworth, Davison and Flint Powers Catholic, other old members of the Big 9 Conference, which disbanded six years ago. Grand Blanc left the Big 9 for the KLAA in 2010.
Other members of the SVL include Flint Southwestern, Lapeer, Midland, Midland Dow, Saginaw, Saginaw Heritage, Saginaw Arthur Hill, Bay City Central, Bay City Western and Mt. Pleasant. Flint Northwestern will combine its athletics with Flint Southwestern next school year, as enrollment and budgets in Flint continue to plummet.
Grand Blanc’s current home, the KLAA, is going through multiple changes. With Pinckney leaving for the Southeastern Conference this summer, nine other Oakland County-based schools announced last August that they were leaving the KLAA to form the Lakes Valley Conference. Members of that new league, which will begin in 2017-18 and boasts eight Class A schools and one Class B school, include Milford, South Lyon, South Lyon East, Walled Lake Central, Walled Lake Northern, Walled Lake Western, Waterford Kettering, Waterford Mott and White Lake Lakeland.
That massive shift left Grand Blanc on an island, which led to the remaining KLAA schools to vote Grand Blanc out due to its distance away from the heart of the conference. The remaining 13 KLAA schools, all Class A schools, will be Brighton, Hartland, Livonia Churchill, Livonia Franklin, Livonia Stevenson, Howell, Northville, Novi, Plymouth, Plymouth Canton, Plymouth Salem, Wayne Memorial and Westland John Glenn.
CARO, NORTH BRANCH TO DEPART TVC
Both Caro and North Branch announced in May that they will both be departing the Tri-Valley Conference following the 2017-18 school year. The two schools have been members of the TVC since 1991.
Otisville-LakeVille is leaving the TVC in July for the Genesee Area Conference, while both Merrill and Breckenridge left the TVC in the summer of 2016.
Caro leaves for the Greater Thumb Conference West Division, where it will compete alongside Bad Axe, Cass City, Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port-Laker, Reese, Unionville-Sebewaing and Vassar.
North Branch has applied to go east and compete in the Blue Water Area Conference, joining the likes of Algonac, Almont, Armada, Capac, Croswell-Lexington, Imlay City, Richmond and Yale.
“We’re a Thumb school and (the district) thought it made more sense for us to compete with schools from the Thumb,” said Caro Athletics Director Dave Bitzer. “Vassar is right down the road for us. (Unionvile-Sebewaing) is right up M-24 and Cass City is right up M-81 from us. We are a Thumb school and a lot of what our students (and residents) do is interact with (communities) in the Thumb. It’s a great fit for us in many ways.”
In 2016, both Pinconning and Standish-Sterling came to the TVC from the now-defunct North East Michigan Conference, along with Independent Saginaw Nouvel Catholic. With the TVC possible realigning its three divisions in the new future, Caro might have ended up in the TVC North Division. That would have added substantial additional travel expenses for Caro. Moving to the Greater Thumb would curtail the potential long distance travel.
With 497 students, Caro will be the largest school in the GTC, made up of Class B and Class C schools. Caro will be the 14th member of the two-division GTC. Vassar (355) and Bad Axe (354) are the next two biggest schools GTC-West.
The GTC East Division is comprised of Brown City, Dryden, Harbor Beach, Marlette, Memphis, Sandusky and Ubly and will remain the way it is for the foreseeable future.
North Branch has 758 high school students, which would make it the largest school in the BWAC. The next largest schools in BWAC, made up of Class B and Class C schools, are Armada (708), Yale (683) and Inlay City (668).