The Litter Box
“WIAA has no shot at providing fair Tourney Brackets”
(Katlama, WA) We are well into the High School Fall sports Championship season and the usual complaining about the WIAA and their placement of teams into the State Tournaments is again in full swing. I and ESN have been accused by some as being a WIAA apologist but I am not, neither is our organization. What we will continue to do is to try and educate fans and even members of the WIAA of how this organization works.
First let’s lay the groundwork, the WIAA is an organization funded and ruled by it’s members, kind of like a Chamber of Commerce for example. They have an Executive Board of 13 school or athletics administrators from all around the state. Currently, the 13 are Assistant Superintendents, District Athletic Directors, Principals, a Chief Operations Director and Athletic Directors from the Seattle, Spokane, Oakesdale, Frank Pierce, Chiawana, Vancouver, Lind-Ritzville, Entiat, Lynden Christian, Sumner, Naches Valley and Mead school districts. This shows a cross section representation from East, West and 4A to 1B representation.
Next is the Representative Assembly, the “legislature or congress” of the WIAA. This group of 53 votes and approves everything. There are 9 geographic districts that make up the WIAA across the State and we will dive headfirst into the Districts soon enough, but first it’s through the districts that the representatives of chosen and sent to the WIAA to represent their district’s interests. Individual districts choose their own representatives.
Finally, there is the WIAA staff headed by Executive Director Mike Colbrese. Colbrese is the full time employee whose job it is to carry out the wishes of his employer the member schools. He does so by following the orders laid out to him from the Executive Board and the what is voted on and passed by the Representative Assembly.
The WIAA staff has extremely limited powers and are tasked to oversee Post-Season State Tournaments, the number of allocations or entries into each tournament for all 9 districts, eligibility requirements setting the classification numbers plus several informational programs that are either being implemented or are mandated such as the new concussion protocol.
Now that I have laid a basic groundwork of understanding of how the WIAA operates let’s take a look specifically at the Tournament Brackets. Here’s what they have control of, the number of entries each district gets and creating the bracket based on criteria the membership has ordered them to consider. Criteria includes travel, not playing other District teams if at all possible especially in the early rounds and the seed each team qualifies with from their district.
What the WIAA has no control over is how the Districts determine who gets the tournament entries allocated to them from the WIAA. So here we go head long into the crux of what is being deemed as unfair match-ups especially early in the tournament. Many Tumwater fans are fuming for having to play #1 ranked (in some polls) ArchBishop Murphy this Saturday in the Football Quarterfinals. Afterall, Tumwater is ranked #2 (in some polls). The question many fans have is how did these 2 teams have to meet in only the 2nd round of state? Then of course it’s the WIAA’s fault because it’s their tournament.
That is true it is their tournament but they don’t get to make the rules, the Districts do through the Executive Board and Rep Assembly. What the Districts won’t allow is for the WIAA to stick their nose into how the District does their business so they all do it differently.
Don’t believe me? Well then consider this and tell me how the WIAA has any chance of putting together a “fair” bracket. Currently the District’s determine who gets to go to the State Tournament and in the “old days” if a district got 4 State Tournament berths let’s say for the 2A classification. And the District had 2 leagues with nearly equal numbers then each would get 2 entries and the League Champ and 2nd place team would get to go to State. I don’t know how you could be more straight forward than that.
If for instance the District had 3 berths per classification cycle and there were 2 leagues then one year one of the leagues would get 2 berths the following season just 1. This is when the idea of sharing berths and determining them with crossover games came into play which allows more teams to have a chance at post-season and getting to state. So in this case each league Champ would get to host the other league’s #3 seed and the 2’s face off with the home field flipping to the other league every other year.
The #1 seed out of the District would be determined by a coin flip and also alternate automatically every other year regardless of record or ranking. So an undefeated, ranked #1 team in the state could be the number 2 seed out of their district simply because it was not their league’s turn to have the #1 seed. Further if a #3 seed defeats the #1 seed in many districts they get the #1 seed regardless. In other cases they have an automatic pecking order agreed upon such as if one league sweeps all 3 crossover games the seeds will be in the order of the league standings so a team you beat in league doesn’t all of a sudden get a higher seed to state than you. But, and I stress this, it is not true for all districts and indeed you could be in a situation where you have beaten a team in league, have a better record yet since they pulled off an upset in a crossover they get a higher seed than you into the State Tournament.
Then there are District’s that have combined old school and crossovers. This is where they have multiple seeds to state but are unwilling to risk or share their #1 guaranteeing their league Champion gets the their top seed and then share their lesser seeds in crossovers. This is the one that makes most sense to me.
These 2 systems is how most districts determine who goes to the State Tournament and which seed they get but not the only way of determining who goes to state. District 1 and 2 have combined to institute an RPI index system. They have come up with their own wins, losses and strength of schedule system to determine who gets what seed. I assume there is a committee to determine this or an agreed upon formula that creates the ranking system and from that the seeds into the State Tournament are determined.
So when all is said and done the WIAA takes the seeds from the Districts who have at least 3 different ways of qualifying for State with some taking into consideration league wins, losses and strength of schedule and others saying hey upsets happen and if they do they get the seed regardless of what happened during league.
This is how the early mismatches and perceived unfair match-ups occur every single season when it comes to bracketing the State Tournaments. WIAA Executive Director Mike Colbrese and his staff may or may not agree, they may give their opinions to the Executive Board and Rep Assembly but in the end they are powerless to make any changes whether or not it makes sense. Additionally, Colbrese is paid to defend this system and he does. He takes all the criticism of how unfair the process is when in reality this is as fair as it possibly can be with a total of 66 administrators representing their schools, leagues and districts. Now whether or not you agree with how the membership has decided to do this is another question.
The upcoming basketball season will be a great test on doing it differently as they have decided to use an RPI system for the 16 teams that qualify. If that system works well it seems likely the WIAA Exec Board and Rep Assembly will look to see if it can work in other sports. Or the other idea is go throwback and give your League Champs the #1 seed automatically and crossover only the lower seeds which would decrease the impact of upsets on the pre-determined state brackets. But under the current “systems” how can the WIAA possibly create the perfect bracket. They have been given an impossible task with no ability to fix it yet they also get to receive all the criticism for the broken system. The fact that there are 3 completely different systems of advancing teams to state is in itself crazy. But those are the facts and that is why the #1 ranked ArchBishop Murphy Wildcats are only a 3 seed from District 1/2 and will be on the road at the #2 state ranked Tumwater T-Birds on Saturday afternoon.
That’s it for now gang and remember no matter what get out and support your local teams some of the best athletic events in the world are just down the road at your local high school. Until next time, remember hugs not drugs and enjoy the Play-offs!!