Eight-man football recommended for Frederic

School board to decide in November 

FREDERIC – The Frederic School District may switch to eight-man football starting next season. 

Athletic director Ethan Bergstrom and football coach Ken Belanger made the recommendation to change from 11-man football at the Frederic School Board meeting Wednesday, Oct. 18, a meeting attended by about 50 parents and students. The school board will consider approving the change at its Wednesday, Nov. 8, meeting. This was the first time the board had received information on the issue.

It is for the welfare of the kids, Belanger said during a detailed presentation on the change. He said that the enrollment numbers at Frederic say that the school does not have the number of kids needed to field 11-man teams. Belanger said Frederic should not play schools three times its size, saying that Frederic took a pounding at a recent game, with the Frederic players “thrown around like rag dolls.” He said that this is not good, not healthy for the kids. Frederic cannot continue to field 11-man teams, he added. 

Frederic’s enrollment numbers in the coming years are a reason for the change, Bergstrom said as he presented a detailed proposal on the football program. He said the 9-12 school enrollment dropped from 134 last year to 112 this fall, placing Frederic at the low end of the enrollment numbers for the Lakeland South 11-man football conference. Looking at the numbers for ninth through 12th grades, 27 of the 60 male students participated in football, including only three of the 14 freshman boys. Bergstrom said the participation projection for 2018 through 2020 remains basically the same.

A number of people at the meeting made comments. 

Jim Tinman said it is an issue of time on the field, that some kids now need to play the entire game, can get worn out and can get hurt easier.

Megan Johnson addressed the board, saying she is the parent of four kids in the school and was speaking as a voice for her son. She said she wants her son to wear a Vikings jersey and does not want to interfere with Friday night football in Frederic. Johnson said that the conversation on community meeting, where all the facts are presented, gives people the opportunity to discuss the change. And she said that the district needs to ask the players what they would like.

District Administrator Josh Robinson said the topic of changing the football program was brought to him by Bergstrom and Belanger on Sept. 20, a week after the school board meeting. He told the Leader that the two then started researching the possibility and he advised the school board members that the topic would be on the October board agenda. Robinson added that the presentation at the Wednesday meeting was the first time the board members heard the proposal and the details.  

Bergstrom said the school board would need to adopt a resolution to change to eight-man football before Dec. 1 if the district wants to make the change for the 2018 season. That date is the WIAA deadline for teams to be eligible for the eight-man state tournament starting next year.

If Frederic changes to eight-man football, it will be following a change made by Siren, Luck, Clayton and, just recently, Shell Lake. Belanger and Bergstrom said Frederic would be competing with teams more similar in size and closer to home, returning to games with some traditional rivals. They said that 26 Wisconsin schools played eight-man this season and 12 schools besides Frederic and Shell Lake are considering the change.

The full PowerPoint presentation appears below.