SIDELINES: 'New' state basketball tournaments are causing confusion, frustration

Money makes the world go ‘round. I’m not revealing a national secret or anything with that statement.
But it’s too bad that the all-mighty dollar has made its way into high school basketball in Washington.

Finances have been cited by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) as the primary reason for changing the state basketball tournament this year.

The “new” state tournaments, which got under way last night at various “regional” sites around Washington, have caused plenty of confusion and frustration throughout the basketball community.
Who knows, this new format just might work out and nobody will even be talking about the “old” state tournament in a few years. It’s no secret that change is notalways welcome.

But, in my opinion, the new tournament is doing the high school athlete a disservice. Now, only eight Class 3A and 4A teams will get a chance to experience playing inside the Tacoma Dome. In years past, 16 teams got to suit up in Tacoma for a double-elimination tournament.

It was something that those players will never forget. The real purpose of the state tournaments was that experience for the kids and fans of the participating schools. The student bodies at the schools were allowed to miss class and attend the games, and proud parents could parade around with their gear.
That’s what high school sports are all about. Taking away that tournament “experience” from eight schools to save a little money is not the way to go. 

So why change?

The governing body of high school sports in the state was worried about the attendance at some consolation bracket games inside the Tacoma Dome during the Class 3A and 4A tournaments.
So the WIAA made the decision after the 2009-2010 basketball season to alter the basketball state tournament format for all school classifications.

Instead of sticking with a four-day, 16-team tournament at a single venue for each classification, the WIAA basically created a regional round at various high school sites around the state followed by a three-day, eight-team state tournament that includes quarterfinals, semifinals and championship games. The new format offers fewer of the dreaded consolation-bracket games.

The WIAA justifies the move because the state basketball tournaments are by far the organization’s biggest revenue source. According to the Yakima Herald-Republic, profits last year from the 12 state basketball tournaments (4A, 3A, 2A, 1A, 2B and 1B for both boys and girls) were almost $150,000 less than profits in the 2005-2006 season.

Washington was the last state in the nation to hold a 16-team, modified double-elimination tournament.
The “new” tournament still includes the 16-team field in each classification, but the first round is being played at four regional sites this weekend. The regional sites feed the eight teams to the Tacoma Dome for the 2011 Hardwood Classic Tournament, which will be held March 3-5.

Locally, the Federal Way High School girls and Decatur boys will both get two opportunities to make it to the Tacoma Dome. The Eagles won the 4A West Central/Southwest District championship and the Gators ended second in the 3A tournament. The finishes gave both teams one of the eight “top” seeds into state.

The eight lower-seeded teams from district tournaments will have to win two games this weekend to get to Tacoma.

I will give the “new” format a chance because the WIAA has given me no other choice. But I feel bad for the eight teams who will be eliminated from their shot at playing under the bright lights of the Tacoma Dome.

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