Put down your forks. The Spaghetti Bowl is on hiatus this year.
And probably next year, too.
For the first time in 39 seasons, Capital and Olympia high schools will not meet on the football field this fall.
“It’s one of the coolest high school settings there is — huge crowd, the big spaghetti feed,” Olympia coach Bill Beattie said. “There’s a lot of layers to the disappointment of not having the game.”
Both Capital and Olympia will join new leagues for the 2016-17 school year, as part of a four-year reclassification cycle implemented by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association in January.
Capital, which will remain in the 3A classification, will join the newly created South Sound Conference and Olympia will join the 4A South Puget Sound League. Because of scheduling conflicts between the two leagues, the Spaghetti Bowl has been shelved indefinitely.
Capital has non-league games scheduled for the first two weeks, which it has filled with River Ridge and Black Hills. Olympia drew Week 9 for its bye week — the only bye it will receive in its nine-team league.
“It wasn’t that we don’t want to play, it’s a matter of the schedules with the two different leagues — especially a nine-team league in the SPSL — just couldn’t work out,” Olympia School District athletic director Jeff Carpenter said.
With eight league opponents lined up, Olympia quickly ran out of options. Capital was unable to move either without affecting other schools’ rivalry games.
“Once you change the schedule, it causes a cascading effect,” Capital athletic director Steve Bellande said. “Once you go and change, say, week six, that means that team you play has to move somewhere else. And it’s a domino effect for everybody else.
“That’s the problem. It changes that whole piece.”
The result? No Spaghetti Bowl this year, and likely not next year either.
Because the leagues are on a two-year scheduling cycle, they will likely flip-flop with opposing schools during the 2017 season, trading home-field advantages. It is possible the game could be played in 2018, at the expense of rivalry games between other schools in the two leagues.
“Hopefully in two years we’ll be able to restore it,” Bellande said. “It’s a big community event. It’s a fundraiser. It’s scholarships for rotary. It’s a big deal, and it’s unfortunate it’s not going to happen.”
The Spaghetti Bowl had roughly 3,500 people in attendance last year.
The annual spaghetti feed, jointly hosted by the Rotary Club of Olympia and West Olympia Rotary Club, is also canceled. Proceeds raised each year are used for college scholarships.
“It was just a friendly game that gave both schools the opportunity to compete against each other,” Capital coach JD Johnson said. “It was good for the district and the community. That’s kind of what I always saw it as.”
Capital leads the all-time series, 21-18. Olympia won last year’s meeting, 41-7, and will likely retain the Spaghetti Bowl trophy for the time being.
“From my perspective, especially becoming a senior next year, it’s kind of disappointing,” Capital junior David Ainuu said. “As a freshman, I expected to get to my senior year hoping to play my last Spaghetti Bowl, and hoping to come out with the win.
“It’s disappointing also that we didn’t win last year, so we don’t have the chance to come back and win it.”
It’s a big community event. It’s a fundraiser. It’s scholarships for rotary. It’s a big deal, and it’s unfortunate it’s not going to happen.”
— Capital athletic director Steve Bellande
Though last year’s win isn’t much of a consolation to Olympia’s players.
“Honestly, it really kind of sucks because we’ve always played them, and it’s always been kind of a big deal,” Olympia junior Scott Gunther said.
“It’s really disappointing. I grew up watching it, and my dad’s a coach. I was a ball boy,” junior Skyler Davis said. “I got to see all of the seniors get excited about winning and losing it. That’s a moment I wanted to feel, especially as a senior.”
League scheduling conflicts will also affect other sports. Carpenter said the two schools will not play each other in basketball or soccer, either.
“I wish we were back in the same league, the same classification,” Beattie said. “Yelm, Timberline, North Thurston, Capital, Shelton — they’re all playing right here. And we’re the second-smallest 4A school in the state. … It’s frustrating to be this close to being in a local league and not being in it.”
Olympia — a current member of the 4A Narrows League, which will disband at the end of the current school year — previously only had six league games to schedule. Capital — currently in the 3A Narrows, which will also disband — had seven.
“They’ve always been either in the same league or in a league where there were seven teams (or so), where you can have a lot of flexibility in your schedule,” Carpenter said.
While Capital will retain some other local rivalries, Olympia will play four of its games in Pierce County at Rogers, Curtis, Sumner and Puyallup in the upcoming season..
“We’re going to a very tough, competitive league, and that will be exciting, but there’s always something about having your cross-town rival that you get the chance to go against once a year,” Beattie said.