SIDELINES: Same old story with Federal Way and SPSL realignment

It’s like deja vu all over again.

At least that’s what it seems like to Miguel Perez and the rest of the athletic directors around the Federal Way School District. For the last six years, the district has been attempting to get all the high schools into the same division of the South Puget Sound League.

But it hasn’t worked out, due to a number of factors, most notably being the Auburn School District’s unwillingness to move away from the four Kent high schools and into the SPSL’s South Division.

It frustrates the living daylights out of Perez, the Federal Way High School athletic director who has championed the cause for the district.

The 18-team SPSL is again in the midst of a two-year reclassification cycle and is “supposedly” exploring options that could put Federal Way, Thomas Jefferson and Todd Beamer into one division. Currently, Federal Way and Beamer are in the SPSL South, while TJ plays in the league’s North Division. The Federal Way and its 4A schools are the only district in the SPSL who play in different divisions and haven’t been together since 2006.

A move by Auburn and Auburn Riverside into the SPSL South would allow all three Federal Way 4A schools to play in the SPSL North Division.

But it’s looking more and more like everything is going to stay status quo, according to Perez.

The SPSL athletic directors voted last month, by a large margin, to keep the current structure of the league as-is for the next two years. But the league’s principals will have the final say. They will, most likely, vote at their next meeting on Feb. 7. And Perez would be floored if the principals didn’t rubber stamp their athletic directors’ decision to keep Federal Way and Beamer in the South and TJ in the North.

The current SPSL South includes Graham-Kapowsin, Spanaway Lake, Bethel, Curtis, Puyallup, Emerald Ridge, Rogers and Puyallup, along with Federal Way and Beamer. The North now includes Kentwood, Kentridge, Kent-Meridian, Kentlake, Auburn, Auburn Riverside, Tahoma and Mount Rainier, along with Thomas Jefferson.

In terms of geography, the two Auburn schools are located south of the two Federal Way schools and closer to Highway 167, which is the main freeway leading to a bulk of the SPSL South schools in Graham, Spanaway and Puyallup. A move by the two schools to the South Division just makes sense, according to Perez.

But officials in Auburn and Kent, which has four schools in the North Division, have cited the tradition of the two cities competing against each other as a reason for not moving Auburn and Auburn Riverside south.

If the principals’ decision next month goes as expected, it looks like the Federal Way School District will again appeal the decision, like it did two years ago. That appeal was obviously denied. But the denial did yield a realignment process and protocol that is now included in the SPSL Handbook.

Perez even completed a complex chart regarding the realignment options  currently on the table and how they each follow the mandated SPSL Handbook. Predictably, the option of moving the Auburn schools into the South Division and Federal Way North was, hands down, the best choice. Things like geography, transportation costs, freeway access, instructional time loss, holding districts together, longevity in the SPSL and FWSD rivalries remaining intact were listed as pros for the move.

The only cons with keeping Federal Way separated was the Auburn School District travel time and cost and Auburn and Kent schools not being in the same division, negating old rivalries.

But Perez also completed a mileage chart for all 18 schools in the SPSL and, for the most part, the two Auburn schools and Federal Way and Beamer are similar distances from the other schools in the SPSL South.

“The FWSD is requesting that our three schools are in the same division, so we would finally have the opportunity to enjoy the same benefits that all other schools in the league get to experience: Transportation, rivalries, gate receipts and much of the other criteria outlined in the handbook,” Perez wrote.

“Switching the Auburn schools to the South enables the FWSD to finally enjoy those benefits that all other schools have had the luxury of never having interrupted,” he continued. “Plus, it does not alter or increase anyone’s travel, nor does it increase missed instructional time.”

The Federal Way School District has been in a version of the SPSL since it was called the Pierce County League in the 1950s. The name changed in the ‘60s to the Puget Sound League and to the SPSL later in the decade.

So don’t get your hopes up of finally seeing the Federal Way high schools actually developing a rivalry between one another. After all, the TJ football team hasn’t played Beamer since the 2005 season.

Like I said before, it’s like deja vu all over again.


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