WIAA votes to shake up prep sports classifications


Sports editor

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association has wanted more balance in its five high school enrollment classifications, but it hasn’t been able to agree on a solution — until now.

The WIAA’s Representative Assembly voted last week 27-8 to enact a plan that will put the smallest 28 percent of schools (based on enrollment in grades 10 through 12) in Class B, then divide up the other four classifications (1A, 2A, 3A and 4A) by having each represent 18 percent of the remaining schools in the state. That would put about 70 schools in each of those four classifications. The new amendment is set to take effect before the 2006 school year.

“We really didn’t think that it was going to fly,” said Jefferson athletic director Mike Grady. “But it did.”

The goal of the WIAA was to create more equality in the size of the top four classifications (A, 2A, 3A, 4A) so all schools would have a better chance to qualify for state tournaments. Currently, there are close to 100 schools in the 4A classification and about 50 in 2A.

It’s still up in the air what effect the new percentages will have on the four Federal Way high schools and their participation in the South Puget Sound League.

The new amendment, if enacted this year, would mean Federal Way and Todd Beamer high schools would be eligible to move down to the 3A classification and Decatur would be right on the cutoff line. But the new percentage rule has a stipulation that allows schools to “opt up,” meaning the Federal Way schools could stay 4A.

“I’m pretty sure that we will remain 4A,” said assistant superintendent Mark Davidson. “We would play up because we are so darn close to the (enrollment) number.”

But the SPSL is set to go through some changes in the next few years and the end result could possibly be a split 3A/4A league. New high schools are set to open in the Bethel, Sumner and Auburn districts in the next few years, which will make the state’s biggest league even bigger. There has been talk about moving from the current two division format to three, but no decision has been finalized.

“It is going to be interesting to see,” Davidson said.

Under the current classification system, schools with populations of 1,201 or more are in Class 4A, followed by 3A (600-1,200), 2A (301-600), 1A (151-300) and B (150 or fewer).

Other passed amendments by the 2004 WIAA Representative Assembly:

• A physical examination by a doctor will now be valid for 24 months unless otherwise limited by local school district policy. Physicals used to be valid for 12 months.

• Before the beginning of their third year, high school coaches must meet the beginning level coaching standard by either completing the class and successfully passing the test of the National Federation of High Schools coaching principles course or attend all sessions of the WIAA coaches school or completing a total of at least 30 hours of coaches education courses.

• Swim coaches are now required to take Red Cross safety training or a lifeguard certification class.

• Football players need only 12 practices before becoming eligible to play in a game, rather than 14.

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