Schools showing interest in West Michigan D League

BALDWIN — It’s not known if the West Michigan D League, of which Baldwin is a member, has interest in expanding.

But there are some schools that may be interested in joining.

Marion school officials had a community forum last week to discuss moving from the Highland Conference to the West Michigan D League. The school board is expected to decide next week whether or not to apply.

There are unconfirmed reports that Mesick and McBain Northern Michigan Christian are also interested.

Marion is currently in the Highland Conference for all sports except football. The West Michigan  D League has eight schools, including Baldwin, Bear Lake, Brethren, Crossroads Charter Academy, Mason County Eastern, Manistee Catholic Central, Pentwater and Walkerville.

“I am open to it,” Jason Keeler, a Marion coach, said. “The biggest benefit would be the opportunity to compete as a school against other schools our size. It’s especially helpful for any ‘team’ level competition. It is the reason we divide the end of season tournaments into divisions... to allow schools to compete on a more level playing field.

“There will always be differences in school size but it does feel like we are being outpaced as a district when compared to other schools in the Highland. If we stay or if we go we will continue to do what we can to prepare kids to find their best against whatever competition they have to face.”

Marion superintendent Mort Meier said community members have voiced pros and cons.

“The cons are the drive and having been in the Highland Conference for many years and the feeling that this is where we belong,” Meier said. “The pros are joining a conference with schools more our size and having a better chance of equal competition.”

The Eagles are in the Highland Conference for most of their sports with the exception of football. With the switch to 8-player football, Marion is now in a different league.

The West Michigan D League does not have football.

Meier noted the Highland is the central location of Marion, compared to other league members, including Beal City, Evart, Lake City, Manton, McBain Public, McBain Northern Michigan Christian and Pine River.

John Russell, Marion athletic director, agreed that there are pros and cons to consider.

“Marion would be leaving a stable league that Marion was a member since 1972,” Russell said, referring to potential cons. “Prior to that, Marion belonged to the Chippewa League. There would also be some increase in travel.”

As for the pros, “Marion currently plays all but one school in the WMD league in different sports,” Russell said. “We still would not be the largest school in the conference but would be playing schools similar in student population and make-up as Marion.”