The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) on Monday announced a change to the format of the high school boys and girls state basketball tournaments that will increase the number of teams playing at the championship site of each tourney from eight to 12.
Mountlake Terrace Hawks boys basketball Coach Nalin Sood expressed no glee regarding the announcement. “This is really a disappointment,” he said.
For many years state basketball tournaments were made up of 16 teams competing over four days at a neutral site such as the Tacoma Dome or the Yakima Valley SunDome. But the 2010-2011 season saw the WIAA make a change to the state tourneys, putting first-round elimination games at various regional sites around the state; the eight winners of those regional games would then move on to three days of play at the championship site.
Ever since the change six years ago, the Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association (WIBCC) has opposed it — Sood served as the group’s president-treasurer during the time frame.
“We have fought the fight for 16 teams to be included in the state championship atmosphere,” Sood said on Monday. “This decision by the WIAA gets us further from that. This is not what’s best for our kids.”
The new format for WIAA state basketball tourneys will keep a regional slate of games involving all 16 teams in a classification. Seeding will rank the teams, with those ranked No. 1 through 8 matching up in games where both the winner and the loser will move on to quarterfinal games played at championship sites. Teams ranked No. 9 through 16 will play in regional loser-out games.
The new format will begin with the upcoming 2016-2017 prep basketball season.
From the regional round — which this season will take place Feb. 24-25, 2017 — 12 teams will advance to the four-day championship events; next spring those will take place March 1-4 for each WIAA classification.
The WIBCC and Sood have pushed the WIAA to reinstate the four-day, 16-team format for state basketball tournaments. When a WIAA committee met last spring to study a change to state tourney formats, a 16-team proposal was on the table.
Sood said that coaches and school district superintendents have shown a preference for the 16-team, four-day format. But it was announced on Monday that the WIAA Executive Board instead went with a different choice.
“They ramrodded this down everybody’s throat,” Sood said of the WIAA actions.
A third option of a 16-team championship site schedule over two weekends — with a “Final Four” bracket on the second weekend — was considered as well by the WIAA but in the end also lost out to the 12-team, three-day championship site selection.
There is no appeal process of the WIAA Executive Board decision that the WIBCC could pursue, Sood said. “They don’t listen to us anyway,” he said.
— By Doug Petrowski