Lee: State hoops should change back

So they’ve been “state” basketball games all along.

And here I was getting used to just calling them regional games.

The WIAA has done an about face and henceforth all regional games – you know, those loser-out games the weekend before the three-day, eight-team state tournaments begin in Spokane, Yakima and Tacoma – will be considered state games.

Let’s make something very clear – the state tournaments don’t begin until teams arrive in Spokane, Yakima and Tacoma.

Several area basketball coaches were under the impression that the regional games were state contests. So I called WIAA media liaison Conor Laffey the week of those regional games in late February to get a clarification. He told me they were regional games, not state games.

The Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association is hell bent on getting the WIAA to return to the four-day format.

The WIAA cut a day off the format because it was concerned it was losing money. The WIAA was still making money, no doubt about it. But, the extra day of rent for using the big arenas was going to take a toll in time, state officials believed.

As part of the evidence put forth to support their case, WIAA officials said having two days of consolation games before trophy games on Saturday was a losing proposition. I must admit that you could have fired a shotgun off at the State 4A and 3A boys tournament loser-out games on the second day and probably not hit anybody in the seats. The only folks to show up for those games are parents and devoted friends.

The WIBCA stresses the trimmed-back format has taken away from the state experience for teams that normally would advance to state. So it’s no consolation to the WIBCA that the regional games are now considered state contests.

It has a point. State tournament games at a high school? There’s no state atmosphere in high school venues, I’m sorry.

I can make an argument for the three-day format and the four-day format.

• Four-day format. Seek out another corporate sponsor to help defray the cost of an extra day. Win and continue to play in the big arena. Lose and those games go off site to a high school gym for a day. Which means second-day games could start a little later, saving some overhead expenses at the big arenas. The only cost for having loser-out games at a high school gym is the cost for ticket takers, scoreboard, scorebook, P.A. announcers and security.

If a team loses the first day, it must earn its way back to the state venue. Heck, you could have two days of consolation games at secondary sites. Then all Saturday trophy games would be back in the state venue.

• Three-day format. I’d tweak this a tad. I’d take Friday elimination games and put them off site. Crowds are minimal for these games. Like I said earlier, make teams earn their way back to the big arenas.

We know coaches want their kids to experience the state experience. I get that. So I say to continue to experience state you must continue to win at state.

So what would I do if I were WIAA executive director Mike Colbrese for a day? First of all, I could never be Mike Colbrese. Second, I have the utmost respect for Mike Colbrese – although there are many who take his name in vain.

If the WIAA is going to refer to the regional games as state contests, then it’s time to go back to the old format. Just handing out participant ribbons for getting to a regional site doesn’t have the same feel as actually making a trip to Spokane, Yakima or Tacoma.

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