North Pole football moves to a new conference

FAIRBANKS, AK-In the past year or so there was been a lot conference realignment in college sports. The reorganization of football has hit the Interior. Today North Pole high school officially announced that the football team will leave the Railbelt Conference for the new Southeast Conference. The change was discussed in February and finalized a couple of weeks ago by the ASAA. Juneau-Douglas will also join the Southeast conference.

North Pole will compete against medium sized schools like Soldotna and Sitka instead of schools that have at least 800 students. North Pole has 700 students. Playing against the big schools resulted in some concussions this past season for the Patriots who weren't used to the size of their athletes.

$40,000 dollars of the football budget is for travel, that budget is raised by the student athletes. North Pole will play two games on one road trip.

The Patriots will keep the West Valley, Lathrop and Colony rivalries.

We caught up with North Pole Head Coach Richard Henert today about the conference change.

"We're not taking a step down competitively, we're getting into a better fit for our competition and that's kind of the biggest thing to face. But it is tough. If you asked us 'you want to opt up' most guys would say yeah.  But then we had to sit back and as a staff, as a coaching staff and as a school district and look at the liability of numbers. If our enrollment is lower you know, what does that say about the chances for injuries like concussions and things like that," Henert said.

"We had to take a really hard look at the things and the cutoff I saw was 800 and we're below that so ultimately,  that that was the decision."