New Glarus/Monticello Football Co-op to End

For 40 years, New Glarus and Monticello have shared a football team. It’s one of the longest co-ops in state history. Beginning in 2024, however, that co-op will come to an end. New Glarus has decided to end the program. New Glarus School Superintendent Jennifer Thayer confirmed the end of the co-op, saying that decision had been made due to the lack of participation from Monticello athletes. She also sent a document that is in the public board book. Although Thayer said that there had been many meetings discussing potentially dissolving the co-op, members of the Monticello Schools administration said after a meeting in July, they had attempted to set up meetings this summer with no response from New Glarus.
According to the board information received, the issue is that two years ago NGM Football was placed in a challenging conference, in large part due to the combined enrollment, and this year NGM was moved to a conference with many state championship teams including Edgewood, Lodi, Lake Mills, Lakeside Lutheran, Columbus, and others.
The New Glarus administration went on to say, “Although on the surface the Capitol Conference seems like an appropriate conference due to NGM’s combined enrollment size as well as location and distance from other Capitol Conference schools, it is definitely a safety issue for our students to be playing in this conference because we do not have the strength in numbers that the other schools do and we get so few students from Monticello. Additionally, we believe that if we continue in this conference, our football numbers may continue to decline, possibly rapidly, because of safety concerns.”
Monticello Administrator Al Brokopp said in a September 1, 2022, letter to the New Glarus administration and school board, “We understand that our current football conference, the Capitol Conference, is less than ideal for our football program due to concerns with competitive balance and equity playing against other traditionally very strong football teams. We also recognize that Monticello does at times struggle to provide a proportionate number of players to the program.”
In his letter Brokopp said, in part, “The New Glarus-Monticello football co-op began in 1983 while Mr. Duane Schober and Mr. Linn Lederman were athletic directors. It was one of the first co-ops in the area. At the time, the co-op was started in order to boost participation numbers for New Glarus football and also to offer football as a fall sport option for Monticello students. During those almost 40 years, the program has seen many ups and downs in success and participation but has nonetheless been a solid partnership that has given many New Glarus and Monticello students the opportunity to participate in school sponsored football. We are proud of the cooperative and acknowledge the amazing efforts of coaches to bring the players from each community together as a cohesive unit. The school has always been appreciative of their inclusivity.”
The two schools also share cross country and girls softball, which will not be affected by this decision.
NGM Football is currently in the Capitol Conference along with teams (enrollment numbers are listed in parenthesis) from Columbus (428), Lodi (456), Lakeside Lutheran (459), Edgewood (528), Lake Mills (488), Turner (488), and Big Foot (480). The enrollment for New Glarus/Monticello at 426, makes it the smallest in the conference. According to the New Glarus administration, if New Glarus drops Monticello, the enrollment number would drop to approximately 300-325. They are hoping that with those numbers they could apply for and receive conference realignment. It should be noted that Columbus at 428 has only two more students than New Glarus/Monticello and are currently undefeated at 6-0 and Big Foot with an enrollment of 480 is one of the largest schools in the conference and have a record of 1-5 so far this year. It appears that enrollment numbers do not automatically translate to winning records.
Brokopp asked that the New Glarus administration and board take into account the following information:
1. It appears that the best conference to make a case to be placed in for football due to enrollment size and location would be the Southwest Wisconsin Conference - the conference that our football team played in the prior two seasons. Our combined school enrollment of approximately 425 students falls right in the middle of school sizes in this conference. It does not appear that Monticello High School’s enrollment of approximately 100 students would make the case to be placed in the Southwest Wisconsin Conference any more difficult. Other options for conferences in our geographical region include the Southwest Wisconsin Activities and the Six Rivers. However, New Glarus’ enrollment alone would make NGM football the largest school district participating in these conferences, lessening the chance of successfully moving to either of these conferences.
2. High school football participation numbers throughout Wisconsin are declining. This is not only a Monticello and a New Glarus issue. Schools across the state are struggling to field 11-man football teams at multiple levels. NGM currently has a JV and varsity team - with many players needing to play on both teams. We are not able to have a freshman team and some underclassmen are needing to play varsity football when possibly not yet ready for that level just to field a team on Friday nights. Questions are always asked as to why…Why are kids from Monticello not playing football? Why are kids from New Glarus not playing football in the numbers that they have in the past? Why are youth football participation numbers in both Monticello and New Glarus lessening? Most likely the reasons are multifactorial and some out of our control - students playing other offered fall sports, parental and student concerns for safety and worry of injury, length and timing of season, students drawn to work and other activities, and just overall lack of commitment and interest in football. Monticello’s projections show that we will contribute 6-11 players per year over the next five years to the NGM football program. As football participation overall is very much trending downward, combining programs may in fact be necessary in order to continue to play 11-man football at multiple levels for both schools.
Brokopp also said in his letter, “We ask that after nearly 40 years of history that we don’t rush to decisions based on short-term reasons. Instead, we remain together for the 2024 and 2025 seasons and collectively work diligently towards a more appropriate conference placement where our numbers allow us to be both competitive and successful, maintaining and increasing football participation at both schools, and continue to offer both Monticello and New Glarus students the opportunity and tradition of New Glarus-Monticello high school football.”
Following a unanimous vote at the New Glarus School Board on September 26, 2022, Thayer issued the following statement: “We have appreciated the opportunity to co-op with Monticello for football for many years, but the time has come and the co-op will dissolve in 2024. Unfortunately, when the WIAA created football-only conferences three years ago, the writing was on the wall that we would likely need to move in this direction. The co-op worked well when we were part of the Capitol South (small school) conference, but the new football-only conferences are based on total high school enrollment from both schools combined, which has jumped NGM to playing powerhouse schools such as Edgewood, Lake Mills, Lodi, Lakeside Lutheran, and Columbus, all who were at one point this season ranked in the top 10 in the state. Conversations began at the time the football-only conferences were being created to either increase the number of students from Monticello or dissolve the co-op so we could play similar schools to those we played before, such as Belleville, Cambridge, and Marshall. We’ve held onto the co-op for three years since the football-only conferences were created to see if there was a way to make it work, but due to continued low numbers and safety concerns in the current conference, the decision was finally made to end the NGM co-op. Fortunately, both New Glarus and Monticello have options moving forward, and we wish Monticello the best as they continue to explore their options and determine the next steps for their football program for 2024 and beyond. In the meantime, we look forward to continuing our partnership through 2023.”