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Totino-Grace, Columbia Heights back to North Suburban?

By DAVID La VAQUE, Star Tribune, 08/21/12, 6:25PM CDT


A two-year experiment allowing the Totino-Grace and Columbia Heights football programs to seek better competitive balance outside the North Suburban Conference could end after just one season.

Conference activities directors recently voted 5-3 to recall both teams after the 2012-13 school year. But no action was taken pending further discussion.

Bringing back both teams would help offset the loss of Chisago Lakes, North Branch and St. Francis to the Mississippi 8 Conference next season.

"The vote was taken, but we tabled any action until September because we want to make sure we get it right," Totino-Grace activities director Mike Smith said.

Totino-Grace, winners of six Class 4A state football titles from 2003 to '10, joined the Northwest Suburban Conference. The move was approved for two seasons. Pulling the Eagles out after one season would create scheduling problems.

Columbia Heights, which posted a 3-39 record in North Suburban games since joining the conference in 2006, went independent and scheduled several St. Paul City Conference and outstate opponents with similar enrollment.

Both programs were permitted to leave the North Suburban Conference before Chisago Lakes, North Branch and St. Francis announced their moves. That leaves only six North Suburban football teams for 2013-14.

"By trying to be creative we set ourselves up for these ramifications," Smith said. "But we're trying to allow everyone to fulfill their commitments."

Spring Lake Park activities director Matt St. Martin voted to bring Totino-Grace and Columbia Heights back after one season, saying, "It's in the best interest of our conference."

But St. Martin is aware of the larger scheduling concerns. He is one of four North Suburban Conference representatives in discussion with members of the Classic Suburban Conference about a scheduling partnership in all sports. Classic Suburban Conference schools include Hill-Murray, South St. Paul and Richfield.

A scheduling agreement could allow Totino-Grace and Columbia Heights to fulfill their two-year plans, St. Martin said.

David La Vaque • 612-673-7574

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