INSIDE THE NUMBERS: THEY TELL THE STORY FOR THE WINGERS
I have lived in Red Wing since 2000 and have been our radio stations Sports Director now for nearly 25 years.
You will never hear me say "I've seen it all" because in sports and athletics that's one of the joys of it. You will always run into something new and exciting on the journey from season to season.
My thought for today though is this: I've seen enough.
The numbers tell the story.
2023-2024 and 2024-25 MSHSL Enrollment numbers adjusted for free and reduced school
BIG NINE CONFERENCE HVL CONFERENCE
Rochester Mayo 1630 Byron 627
Rochester Century 1485 Kasson-Mantorville 613
Rochester John Marshall 1301 Stewartville 591
Owatonna 1244 Pine Island 398
Northfield 1102 Lake City 361
Mankato East 1078 Zumbrota-Mazeppa 353
Mankato West 1069 Rochester Lourdes 322
Austin 1017 Cannon Falls 302
Albert Lea 760 Goodhue 187
Red Wing 593
Red Wing was in the Missota Conference when I moved to Red Wing. The Wingers enrollment was in line with many of the schools. The years rolled by and Red Wing's numbers couldn't keep pace with Shakopee, Farmington, Prior Lake and others. Red Wing and Northfield left the Missota Conference and joined the Big Nine starting in 2014-2015. The Missota Conference is no longer. The Big Nine will be around forever with or without the Wingers in the mix.
It's nearly a decade later and the same thing is happening. Red Wing's enrollment continues to drop. Believe me, the coaches and student-athletes are doing the best they can. I see the hard work and preparation they put in year after year in their sports. It's simply a numbers game and the Wingers, with a few exceptions in some sports, simply can't run with the big dogs.
I've seen enough to realize a move to the HVL makes a ton of sense.
There would be scheduling challenges for some sports, namely girls and boys swimming and girls and boys hockey but in most of the other sports the Wingers and the current HVL schools have the same sports.
This doesn't mean the Wingers couldn't play games against Big Nine teams. Those games would simply fill out teams schedules as non-conference matchups.
For example, Wingers boys hockey could still play Winona twice a year for the barge rope!
What would need to happen for a Wingers move to the HVL?
*The school wanting to make the move
*The Big Nine saying OK
*The HVL saying OK
The HVL is super competitive as well but the numbers say it's time for a change. It is at least time for the conversation.
One more thing to consider. Let's say the Wingers make the move to the HVL. The HVL would then have 10 teams.
I'm starting with this scenario for basketball. How cool would this be!
HVL North Division: Red Wing, Lake City, Goodhue, Cannon Falls, Zumbrota-Mazeppa
HVL South Division: Stewartville, Kasson-Mantorville, Byron, Rochester Lourdes, Pine Island
There are a lot of positives! Instant rivalries! I have to believe attendance numbers would increase. Check out a state map of Minnesota and look at the Big Nine and HVL schools geographically. Parents, Grandparents and your casual fans who want to see the Wingers on the road would see a lot less wear and tear on their vehicles no matter what the sport.
Wingers coaches, student-athletes and your local radio play-by-play guy would love it as well.
Let's start the conversation and see what happens!