“Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.” – Arnold Bennett
UPPER THUMB — Even with its current 13-team alignment, Greater Thumb Conference officials say they’re content right now with the way things are set up and will wait a while to make any changes — delicate or drastic — in the way they conduct business.
That’s the message GTC president Steve Budzynski pointed out earlier this week in an interview in his office in Harbor Beach.
“Obviously, we’d like to have another team to help with scheduling,” said Budzynski, who also serves as Harbor Beach athletic director. “But we feel right now we have a solid conference. We are just always looking to see what’s best for the league, the student-athletes and those communities.”
The league’s latest conundrum comes after Deckerville, a member of the GTC since its inception in 1997, made the move to the mostly-Class D North Central Thumb League for the start of the 2010-11 school year. Deckerville, a Class D school since 2007, has lost students every year since 2002. And while it had applied for membership to the NCTL several times, it was finally accepted for this school year.
Deckerville’s departure left the GTC with an uneven 13-team alignment, with seven teams in the Greater Thumb West and six in the Greater Thumb East.
The biggest problem, as Budzynski pointed out, has been scheduling, especially for football. GTE teams have had to find one additional non-league game, which has been difficult for many schools.
Scheduling problems, though, haven’t been limited to just football. Since finding out about Deckerville’s imminent move, league athletic directors have met several times to discuss the issue.
“There has been quite a bit of discussion not only about football scheduling, but all the sports,” Budzynski said. “It’s been tough, but we’re working through it.”
An easy solution would be to bring in another school. And, Budzynski said, Memphis and Millington have applied to the GTC for membership. Right now, though, plans on adding schools are on hold.
“The general consensus is that we just wanted to wait and see what happened this year,” Budzynski said. “We want to make sure we make the right decision...”
There are tentative plans, however, to merge scheduling, specifically football, with the NCTL. Budzynski said that under the proposal the football league would be broken into three, six-team divisions. Sources have said Mayville would move to the ‘new’ NCTL while Bad Axe would slide from the GTW to the GTE. That alignment is only preliminary, though, and would apply to just football.
Officials from both leagues were slated to meet Wednesday to discuss the issue.
“It’s not a change in leagues, it’s just a change in the way we schedule,” Budzynski said.
Budzynski said, if approved, that football alignment could be implemented as early as next fall. Issues, including all-league honors and the assurance that the smaller schools will still offer 11-player football and not switch to 8-player, however, have to be hammered out.
“We want to make sure it’s beneficial for everyone,” Budzynski said.
The GTC is also looking into a slight modification in its basketball schedule, with the hopes of playing most league games on Friday nights. In the past, many crossover games have been scheduled that night. That would not be implemented until 2011-12.
The GTC, however, did make one subtle change for this school year, realigning its divisions for soccer while adding Memphis to the league.
Now, the new Greater Thumb North consists of Harbor Beach, Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port, Bad Axe, Unionville-Sebewaing Area and Caseville. The Greater Thumb South consists of Memphis, Marlette, Cass City, Sandusky and Brown City.
“There have to be changes,” Budzynski said. “Change is difficult for everybody, but there comes a time when they have to be made.
“Every school is losing kids. That’s not a Thumb thing. That’s a state thing.”