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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  High school sports

Dave Nichols: WIAA proposals for state basketball tournaments leave open possibility of State B venue moving to lowest bidder

UPDATED: Fri., May 15, 2020

Liberty’s Maisie Burnham hoists up the State 2B trophy after the Lancers defeated La Conner 52-45 at the Spokane Arena on Saturday, March 7, 2020. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Liberty’s Maisie Burnham hoists up the State 2B trophy after the Lancers defeated La Conner 52-45 at the Spokane Arena on Saturday, March 7, 2020. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Have we already witnessed the last State B tournament in Spokane? It’s entirely possible.

On Thursday, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association published a survey on its website asking for input on potential changes to the state basketball tournament formats.

The proposals are elaborate and present big changes from the way the tourneys have been conducted in the recent past – or ever, really.

But the biggest upshot from all of it might be the possibility that the State B tournament, which has been a staple in Spokane since 1958, might not take place here anymore.

Of course, the issue boils down to money.

The current format began in 2017, but a lot of folks aren’t fans.

In each classification, 16 teams qualified for the regional round, held mostly at high school sites.

The top eight seeds played for seeding, while the bottom eight played to eliminate four teams, sending 12 to the state venues – 4A/3A in the Tacoma Dome; 2A/1A at the Yakima SunDome; 2B/1B at the Spokane Arena – for a four-day tournament.

The Wednesday games were eliminations, forcing the losing teams to drive across state for one game. Nobody liked that aspect of it.

It’s been an issue since 2011, when the WIAA moved from the 16-team, modified double-elimination, single-venue tourney that had been in place since the mid-1980s.

Regardless, the WIAA is asking for input on changes that are a dramatic shift.

All three proposals spread the tournaments over a three-week period, opposed to the current two. Also, third- and fifth-place games would be eliminated – third-place trophies would be distributed to both semifinal losers.

That’s right, a trophy for losing.

Two of the three proposals center around the idea of “super regionals,” with 16 teams qualifying for a single-elimination regional round at a high school or college site. The eight remaining teams would advance to a single-elimination super regional the following week, either at a high school/college site or at the Yakima SunDome, before sending a final four to the state venues.

The third proposal is for both of the first two rounds to be played in Yakima in one weekend.

In all three proposals, teams will still qualify through district tournaments and will be seeded through the state seeding committee, approved just last week.

Here’s the kicker – none of the proposals issues a guarantee for any games to be played in Spokane.

Any time Spokane is mentioned as a possibility of being a state venue, there is an ominous disclaimer attached:

“*or another comparable venue as deemed appropriate and approved by the WIAA Executive Board.”

The first two proposals specifically say the 1B, 2B, 1A semifinals and finals would be played at either the SunDome OR the Arena, with the asterisk attached.

It doesn’t take much to read into that.

In fact, you don’t have to read into it at all because the WIAA attached the balance sheet.

Last year, it cost the WIAA more than $191,000 in expenses at the Arena for the four-day State B tournament, compared to $135,000 at the SunDome to host the 2A, 1A tourney.

The WIAA doesn’t have a problem leaving traditional state venues. This year, football title games were played at high school stadiums as opposed to the Tacoma Dome because of increasingly higher rent.

For the WIAA to put out these proposals without secured venues, seemingly pitting one directly against the other, is awkward at best – and unseemly at worst.

It’s almost as if the WIAA is saying, “Hey, Spokane Arena, bring your prices down or we’ll move the Bs over to Yakima.”

You can go to the WIAA site, read all the proposals and draw your own conclusions. And you can vote on which proposal you think is best. But do it quickly, because the survey is only open until Wednesday.

What you can’t vote on, though, is whether you think the Arena should remain the venue for the State B tournament.

Now, I like the aspect of seeding the state tourneys 1-16 and having the first two rounds single elimination, especially if they’re being played in appropriately sized regional venues giving geographically closer higher seeds a home-court advantage.

I don’t like that the proposals push that over two weeks, but it gets rid of the current weird “protected” matchups, which allowed teams to lose and advance.

But what I really don’t like is the idea of the State B tourney not happening in Spokane. The Arena is a great venue, and attendance here rivals what they draw in Tacoma for the big schools.

It would just be a shame if the region lost that because of the price of rent.

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