Divorces can be messy, and the breakup in the Columbia Basin Big Nine certainly falls into that category.
The conference will split into two leagues beginning next fall. The separation is far from amicable.
File this under irreconcilable differences.
Depending on who you talk to, differences among the schools date back to 2004.
At a meeting back in December, CBBN school principals voted 8-7 to split the conference into two geographical divisions – North and South – and eliminate the current divisions based on classifications.
The vote was split with the South schools – the seven Tri-Cities schools along with Walla Walla – voting yes and the seven North schools voting no.
As it turned out, it was an illegal vote because, under league bylaws, dividing the conference into geographical divisions requires a super majority (75 percent).
In an effort to hash out a compromise, representatives of all the schools met for two days in late January, but none could be reached. That’s when the South schools decided to secede from the conference.
The bone of contention for the South schools is they wanted to reduce travel, be able to allow parents of athletes to see more games and reduce loss of class time. The schools also wanted to change the bylaw that required a super majority to alter divisions within the league.
The North schools were willing to budge on the travel issue with the understanding that roads to Wenatchee and Moses Lake go both ways. But they weren’t willing to change the bylaw and thus turn control over to South schools.
“(The South schools) only wanted to schedule the Tri-City schools and we wanted to play them all,” Moses Lake athletic director Loren Sandhop said. “When push came to shove, that’s what it boiled down to.”
The five 4A North schools – Eisenhower and Davis of Yakima, Wenatchee, Eastmont of East Wenatchee, and Moses Lake – along with Sunnyside will take the CBBN name. The South schools are considering such names as the Greater Tri-Cities League and the Mid-Columbia League for their conference.
The North will have one 4A state berth for all sports and the South will have one 4A state berth along with a 3A state berth. Sunnyside will play the 3A schools in the Tri-Cities to determine a state berth.
The schools of the new CBBN have decided to play each other twice in football and Sunnyside once. In sports such as boys and girls basketball, baseball and softball the schools will play each other three times.
The South schools will play each other once in football and are finalizing plans for the other sports.
“There’s been some hard feelings over the whole thing,” Sandhop said. “By the same token there’s been some trust that’s been lost.”
Walla Walla Public Schools superintendent Mick Miller is sad to see the end of the long-storied tradition and history of the CBBN.
“There are some very nice people who had deep-seated issues and resentments that couldn’t be overcome,” said Miller, a Shadle Park graduate who spent eight years as principal at Mead.
Miller pointed out it’s tough for a Tri-City school to justify traveling to, say, Wenatchee to play a game when it could play another school just down the street – as is a GSL luxury.
He hopes the new league and the GSL will blend their state berths and have a crossover week in football. Additionally, Miller would like to see both leagues eliminate district tournaments and stage subregionals in boys and girls basketball down the road.