When it was announced at the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association representative assembly last spring that the Class 3A state basketball tournaments were moving back to the Tacoma Dome, it corrected a big mistake.
Having the 3A boys and girls tournaments at KeyArena and Hec Edmundson Pavilion was a money drain and logistical nightmare for schools with boys and girls teams playing miles apart in gridlocked Seattle.
Of course, this is all old news.
So, here’s something new to chew on: Instead of having 16 teams reach the state tournament, make it eight.
According to Mike Colbrese, executive director of the WIAA, there has been discussion of reducing the number of teams that qualify for the basketball state tournaments. Colbrese said the primary reason cited is that the length of the four-day tournament causes kids to miss too much time in the classroom and leaves school districts with hefty hotel, meal and transportation costs.
He declined to weigh the positives and negatives of such a move, but I say go for it and here’s why:
With eight teams, the WIAA can shorten the tournament to three days or combine two tournaments, say, 4A and 3A, at one site if consolation games were eliminated. The eight 3A boys and girls quarterfinal contests could be played on a Wednesday and the 4A games could follow on Thursday – 4A and 3A could rotate playing on Wednesday each year. All eight semifinals would be on Friday and the four finals on Saturday.
Can you imagine a watching the Garfield, Franklin, Federal Way, Rainier Beach, Decatur, Bellevue and Kentwood boys teams play in consecutive games this year?
Hoopheads still get the four-day basketball extravaganza. Fewer teams means there’s no need to be married to the cavernous Tacoma Dome. Think the WIAA could get a sweet deal on renting out tenant-less KeyArena right now?
If you’re still with me and not thinking that I’m a tradition-killing nut, you’re probably wondering, “How will the four teams be decided?”
By regional tournaments.
Wrestling uses four regional tournaments to seed the Mat Classic brackets. Why not basketball? It’s not such a crazy idea. Regional tournaments were used up until 1987 when eight teams would advance to the state tournament. This plan isn’t drastically new.
Let’s use Class 4A as an example. There are 78 schools in the classification, and we need to whittle that figure to eight. Basic math tells us that, to keep it fair, each regional should have 19.5 teams to pull from. Let’s call it 20. To be clear, I’m not proposing all 20 schools play in the regional tournament. Earlier postseason games – league and district tournaments – will determine what teams advance to the regional.
Because the 78 schools aren’t spread out evenly across the state, using geographic regions is out. But to keep travel costs down and ticket sales up, we can’t go crazy and have the Greater Spokane League and WesCo Conference pair up, even though they would create a perfect 20-team regional.
Two teams will advance out of each of these four regions:
• Region I: WesCo Conference (14 schools) and KingCo Crown or Crest (6) for a 20-team regional. KingCo can rotate the Crown and Crest divisions each year.
• Region II: KingCo Crown or Crest (6), SPSL North or South (9) and Greater St. Helens League (6) for a 21-team regional. The SPSL could rotate the North and South each year.
• Region III: Narrows League (11) and SPSL North or South (9) for a 20-team regional.
• Region IV: Big Nine (11) and Greater Spokane League (6) for a 17-team regional. Long travel distances mean there is really no way around this smaller regional. Plus, maybe it will get the two Eastern Washington leagues to stop yapping about a perceived “West Side” bias. (Teams from the Greater Spokane League have claimed the 4A boys and girls titles the past two seasons, we know you can play.)
If you’re interested in how 3A, 2A and 1A regions might look, you can see them online at blogs.thenewstribune.com/preps.
If any changes are made, they won’t come until 2011. Colbrese said the current tournament format is locked in through the 2009-10 season because that’s how far in advance the state allocations have been made.
That’s OK, a couple of years should give the powers that be plenty of time to iron out the wrinkles of a new format and make sure it is financially feasible. The state basketball tournaments are the WIAA’s cash cow, so a modified tournament must make accounting sense.
It already makes sense in so many other ways.
Doug Pacey: 253-597-8271