Coaches Association sends open letter to WIAA regarding state basketball tournaments

The Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association unanimously endorsed this open letter to the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association regarding the regional and state tournament formats for boys and girls basketball. The statement is also endorsed by the Washington State Girls Basketball Coaches Association. Here is the content of that letter, titled “March Maddening.”

From: the WIBCA Membership March, 2015

“Despite all the glory he earned in Major League Baseball, one of Mel’s greatest athletic thrills was to compete in the State “B” Basketball Tournament”. Jim Stinson, Remembering the “B” on Mel Stottlemyre, Former professional baseball player and World Series winning coach for the New York Yankees.

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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