ESCANABA - Change is looming for an area high school basketball conference.
Munising will join the Central U.P. League for 2012-13, and that will require the long-time loop to make some adjustments for a school playing its final season in the Mid-Peninsula Conference.
The Mustangs are an original member of the M-PC, which formed in 1975-76. Munising, now a Class D school, left the M-PC in football this past season to join the Mid-Eastern Conference.
The addition of Munising has prompted CUP officials to form two four-school divisions. Big Bay de Noc, Rapid River and Superior Central will join Munising in the North Division and Bark River-Harris, Carney-Nadeau, Mid Peninsula and North Central will form the South Division.
Teams will play each other twice in their division and will play at least once against teams in the other division. The first game with teams from opposite divisions will be used to determine CUP champions. There will be separate North and South division champions.
Three CUP schools, BR-H, North Central and Carney-Nadeau, wanted to maintain their non-league relationship with Stephenson and Mid Peninsula wanted to maintain its two-game slate with neighboring Gladstone.
BR-H, Carney, North Central, Mid Pen and Rapid River are also members of the Skyline Conference.
To help secure the new arrangement, Rapid River dropped its' two-game non-league arrangement with Engadine to add Munising. That means the Rockets will play all 20 games against either CUP or Skyline opponents.
Munising and Engadine are Class D district opponents and Rapid River athletic director Rick Pepin felt it was important to maintain a regular season connection with both schools. To make the new plan work for the greater good, he agreed to sever ties with Engadine.
* A new coach will be matching wits with Bark River-Harris girls cage coach Joel Schultz next month, but he certainly is not a newcomer to the bench.
Norm Ellenberger has taken over the girls varsity post at Watersmeet, which was U.P. Class D Team of the Year last season. The teams play Jan. 18 at BR-H.
The name may be familiar to long-time hoops fans. Known as "Stormin' Norman" for his flashy dress, fiery coaching manner and flamboyant personality, Ellenberger spent 1972-79 as head coach at University of New Mexico, compiling a 134-62 record.
He also was an assistant coach under legendary Bob Knight at Indiana University for more than a decade.
According to Wikipedia, the Ellenbergers "became enamored with the Upper Peninsula of Michigan" when they lived in Chicago. His wife, Cyndi, became girls basketball coach at Conserve School in Land O' Lakes, Wis. and then Norm accepted a job as girls coach at nearby Minocqua Lakeland High School.
He also coached at Conserve and was an assistant with the Watersmeet boys when the Nimrods became a national icon via ESPN and Sundance Channel in 2007.
He replaces Kathleen McGrath, who stepped aside to follow her freshman son play basketball for Watersmeet.
"I can only fish so much," Ellenberger, 79, told the Ironwood Daily Globe. "I got an itch that just needs to be scratched. That itch is coaching."
Ellenberger was fired from the New Mexico post in 1979 when "Lobogate" brought down that program due to 57 NCAA rule violations. He was convicted on 21 counts of fraud two years later.