Sports

SPSL will remain two-devision league in '05

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

The state’s largest league is set to get even bigger next year. The South Puget Sound League will add two new schools in the fall, bringing its total to 21.

And despite the additions of Auburn Mountainview and Graham-Kapowsin high schools, the SPSL will have a similar two-division look in 2005. A fact that isn’t too popular with administrators in the Federal Way School District, who would like to see three, seven-team divisions.

“The feeling from our coaches and athletic directors is unanimous that we would love to see three,” said Federal Way High School athletic director Bob France.

District officials are worried about the cost of transportation to and from games, the length of time student-athletes are spending on busses and problems with scheduling in an 11-team sports division, among other things.

A group of principals and athletic directors, which included France and Federal Way High School principal Randy Kaczor, from across the current 19-team league have voted to keep everything status quo next school year.

“We felt a need to make a decision,” said Enumclaw High School principal Terry Parker, who is also the chair of the SPSL’s realignment committee. “This is a one-year solution. We need to figure out what we are going to do in the SPSL in the long term.”

Over the next six months, the realignment committee will look at numerous issues within the SPSL, including travel, moving to a three-division format and playoff allocations, according to Parker.

“Our priorities are economics and academics,” said Kaczor. “But it seems like football programs and rivalries are the top priorities in other places, while we are looking more toward academics than athletics.”

It’s unlikely the four Federal Way high schools — Decatur, Federal Way, Thomas Jefferson and Todd Beamer — would leave the SPSL. The closest 4A league is currently the Narrows, which includes the Tacoma School District as well as teams from Gig Harbor, Shelton and Port Orchard, among others.

But officials are concerned that Federal Way’s student-athletes are being negatively impacted by the amount of travel they are forced into as a member of the SPSL South, which will include three teams from the Puyallup School District, three from Bethel and University Place’s Curtis High School next year.

Federal Way is the northernmost member of the division and the only district in King County. The SPSL North includes schools from Auburn, Kent, Enumclaw, Sumner and Tahoma.

“We have to go all the way to Bethel (Graham) and the kids aren’t getting home until 11:30 or midnight and then they are expected to get up at 5:30 and come to school,” Kaczor said.

The increased traffic on Highway 167 also isn’t helping, according to France.

“We are having to get the kids out of school a half hour earlier then we used to because of the traffic,” he said. “While the teams in the North are just traveling within the central part of the area.”

France, backed by the Federal Way School District, presented a pair of three-division options to the SPSL realignment committee twice in the last two years. Both of which were shot down each time.

The first option included splitting the schools into three geographical divisions, without school district and rivalry consideration and the second placed all district schools together in three divisions.

“We really did have a lot of conversations and support from some of the different (athletic directors),” France said.

But not enough to make a change.

The geographic proposal basically drew lines across a map and placed schools in three seven-team divisions. The proposed North Division would include Federal Way, Thomas Jefferson, Auburn, Kentridge, Kent-Meridian, Tahoma and Sumner. The Central would include Todd Beamer, Decatur, Auburn Riverside, Kentlake, Kentwood, Puyallup and the new Auburn Mountainview and the South would be made up of Bethel, Spanaway Lake, Curtis, Emerald Ridge, Rogers, Enumclaw and the new Graham/Kapowsin High School.

France’s proposed district alignment would include a North Division of the four Kent schools, Tahoma, Enumclaw and Sumner. The Central would include the four Federal Way schools and the three Auburn high schools and the South would be made up of the three Puyallup schools, the three Bethel schools and Curtis.

“I think they would be more apt to side with (France’s ideas), but there is a lot of pressure from the good old boy network to not realign,” Kaczor said.

Next year’s 11-team South Division will also create a nightmare for SPSL schedule makers, especially in sports like soccer and volleyball. The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association — the governing body of high school sports in the state — allow soccer and volleyball teams to play a total of 16 matches during the season.

“It is going to be a real problem,” France said. “We are going to have to some way draw up a schedule where you basically play every school once and some schools twice.”

This year, the sports used similar schedules. Each school played every SPSL South team once (nine matches), which counted in league standings, and the other seven matches were non-leaguers.

The SPSL realignment committee will meet again in March and will decide to stay with the two-division format or go with something new for the 2006-07 school year.

“We have three priorities,” Kaczor said. “We want to stay in the SPSL, academics and economics. We just need to decide what’s best for the kids. Athletics are secondary.”

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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