High School Sports

Bring back 16-team state basketball tournament, coaches say

The state regional format has to go, and the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association needs to bring back the 16-team state basketball tournaments.

That’s what the Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association called for in a statement released Monday morning.

Mountlake Terrace High School boys basketball coach Nalin Sood is the WIBCA president. Steilacoom coach Gary Wusterbarth and Curtis coach Tim Kelly are also on the board.

“WIBCA … would like to make it very clear that we are again very disappointed,” the statement read. “The WIAA is following a year-after-year downhill trend with this tournament.”

Before the WIAA announced the switch from the 16-team, double elimination tournament in April of 2010, Washington was the only state in the country with such a format.

The regional format was implemented, for one, to cut costs of renting a venue such as the Tacoma Dome, renting it for one week instead of two. And it cuts the number of consolation games, which have notoriously drawn fewer fans.

The statement from WIBCA sited, among other things, the higher cost of denying half the teams that would have competed in the state tournament.

Highlights from its statement:

•  Fewer teams reach the domes. The regional sites scatter teams in high school gyms for win-or-go home games, denying 96 teams and about 1,150 players the chance to either play in the Tacoma Dome, Yakima Valley SunDome or Spokane Veteran’s Memorial Arena.



“A single-elimination game in a local high school gym pales in comparison to the promise and excitement of the Big Tournament in Spokane, Yakima or Tacoma,” the statement read.

•  Fewer dollars don’t outweight fewer memories. The WIAA switched to the regional format five years ago to cut costs that came with 16 teams playing four days at one site — which meant 4A and 3A Spokane teams, for example, had to spend four days in Tacoma.



“These savings have come at a very high price: lost memories, lost dreams and lost learning opportunities for countless young people throughout our state,” the statement read. “… The WIAA’s moniker for the 8-team state tournament is The Hardwood Classic. The five-year format is not now nor has been even close to a classic in any traditional sense. On the other hand, it is certainly a classic example of placing profits before people.”

WIBCA also wrote that the secret draw procedure for Regionals this year — which WIAA executive director Mike Colbrese said last week was designed to keep coaches from purposefully losing district games to gain what they believed was a better matchup come regionals — is flawed.

“Besides providing ZERO transparancy on this selection process, high school coaches are now having to spend even more time away from their families and jobs scouring the state to scout as many teams as possible to best prepare their student-athletes for their possible Regional game,” the statement read. “This criticism does not even take into account administrators, athletic directors, band directors, students, fans and families who also had to wait until beginning of Regionals week to make their necessary travel and lodging accommodations to support their teams. The interests of high school basketball players, fans, teams and team personnel were put at the bottom of the list of the WIAA’s priorities.”

Following is the WIBCA statement in its entirety:

Like the past four years, this year as tournament fever spikes for high school basketball fans throughout the state of Washington, the regrettable current Regional format leaves many basketball players and fans wanting more. Instead of chanting “ON TO STATE” and enjoying the classic 16-team tournament, Regionals again cuts short the seasons of 96 boys and girls basketball teams across the state. For a fifth consecutive year these 96 teams, about 1,152 players, along with their respective families, fans, cheerleaders, dance/drill teams, and bands are denied the State experience. These teams, who have played by the WIAA slogan “Just Play Fair”, would be happy to just play. The argument that Regionals is somehow a “state” experience rings hollow; a single-elimination game in a local high school gym pales in comparison to the promise and excitement of the Big Tournament in Spokane, Yakima, or Tacoma.

The WIAA continues to argue the Regional format is cost and time effective. With half of the teams eliminated during regional “state” games, costs are lower. However, these savings come at a very high price: lost memories, lost dreams and lost learning opportunities for countless young people throughout our state. As a business, the WIAA has succeeded in growing revenues, but their grade for maximizing educational opportunities is low. The WIAA’s moniker for the 8-team State Tournament is The Hardwood Classic. The five-year format is not now nor has been even close to a classic in any traditional sense. On the other hand, it is certainly a classic example of placing profits before people. A more appropriate title would be State Lite: half the tournament, twice the heartache! As with previous years, the 16-team Regional tournament again cuts short the seasons of many teams local to Yakima, Spokane, and Tacoma thus decreasing local fan bases not to mention the large fan bases of teams that also travel well. The elimination of these teams also cuts into revenues not to mention the effect smaller crowds have on the overall enthusiasm and excitement that should be enjoyed by all participating student-athletes. Each and every year of the Regionals format the WIAA has had to make major changes to it in a variety of different ways. No two consecutive years have been the same. With the 16-team tournament there were minor tweaks but nothing close to the continual overhaul being done each year with Regionals. Further, this year the WIAA took an already lesser experience for those involved and made it an even more challenging and difficult one for players, coaches, students, parents, fans and athletic directors/administrators. By not providing seedings and possible locations of games until the 12th hour (late Saturday night after completion of district tournaments/Sunday evening for locations), the WIAA, behind CLOSED DOORS, determined the seeding’s and placing of teams and locations. The rationale for the WIAA doing this was in relation to rumored accusations suggesting some teams were “not playing to win” so as to better position themselves for possible Regional opponents. The WIAA attempted to correct presumed failings in the integrity of a few by retaliating against all. However, isn’t determining seeding’s and locations of games secretively now creating the same type of situation? Additionally, besides providing ZERO transparency on this selection process, high school coaches are now having to spend even more time away from their families and jobs scouring the state to scout to as many teams as possible to best prepare their student-athletes for their possible Regional game. This criticism does not even take into account administrators, athletic directors, band directors, students, fans and families who also had to wait until beginning of Regionals week to make their necessary travel and lodging accommodations to support their teams. The interests of high school basketball players, fans, teams and team personnel were put at the bottom of the list of the WIAA’s priorities. As during the previous five years, the WIAA solution to a flawed regional “state” tournament design has failed. Leading this year’s shortcomings is the illogical, questionable and secretive process.

WIBCA, Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association would like to make it very clear that we are again very disappointed. The WIAA is following a year-after-year downhill trend with this tournament. We congratulate those teams that have qualified for Regionals and applaud the success of the eight teams that are going to their respective classification state tournaments. WIBCA appreciates the time and effort put in by so many to create a positive experience for the student-athletes and fans of all teams. A positive experience for student athletes-oh, what a perspective. WIAA are you listening?

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