WIAA plan draws mixed reviews
Thursdays at the WIAA state basketball tournament no longer belong to Division 1 schools.
The 10-member WIAA Board of Control approved unanimously a five-division format for the state basketball tournament. The added
division basically will split the present Division 1 into two divisions, creating the added division.
The plan had met opposition from the bigger schools on several fronts since the plan was first introduced last fall.
“To be honest with you, I’m kind of disappointed with the board of control,” said Steve Collins, Madison Memorial High boys basketball coach Thursday night. “The reason is, there were mixed feelings about this during different votes at different levels. And the WIAA never takes things away. But they did in this instance.”
The move takes away the eight-team Division 1 field, creating four-team fields in all five divisions. The new format also takes away the traditional shootaround day on the Wednesday before the state tournament begins, when every team received 30 minutes of practice time on the state tournament court.
Under the new guidelines, schools with an enrollment of more than 1,200 will be in Division 1. Schools with enrollments between 600 and 1,200 will be in Division 2. Schools with enrollments of 200 and 600 will be split into divisions 3 and 4, and all other schools will be Division 5.
Janesville Craig and Janesville Parker, along with area schools such as Lake Geneva Badger, Beloit Memorial, Madison East, Madison La Follette, Madison Memorial, Madison West, Middleton, Sun Prairie and Verona, will remain in Division 1.
“I’d be interested if they got together before the meeting,” Collins said of the 10-0 vote. “All along the way it was 50-50, and all of a sudden, they pass it unanimously.”
Bob Beighton, boys basketball coach at Delavan-Darien, understands how the bigger Division 1 schools feel. But Beighton, who has coached Comet teams that have been classified some years as Division 1, thinks the board did what was fair.
“I always thought it was a little inequitable,” Beighton said. “Division 1 gets eight schools in and everybody else gets four. I’ve played in both divisions.
“In 2003-2004, we shared the Southern Lakes (Conference) title. We go to the regional final, and we have to play Kenosha Bradford. They’re three times the size we are, something like 950 (enrollment) to 2,700.
“At what point is that fair?”
Ryan Masterson, Janesville Parker boys basketball coach, said the math didn’t support the new format.
“Division 1 schools make up about 60 percent of the state population,” Masterson said. “All the rest of the schools are 40. So now we get four teams, and every one gets four teams. That seems out of whack. I’m very disappointed.”
Masterson, who played his varsity high school basketball at Craig under Coach Bob Suter, said that in all the state tournaments Craig played in under Suter, only once did a team get to the semifinals.
“Under this division format, he would have only gone to state once,” Masterson said. “There would be a huge amount of kids that never would have experienced state. That includes band members and student fans.”
The approved plan calls for Division 1 teams to play a “super sectional” on the Tuesday of state tournament week.
Tom Klawitter, Janesville Parker High head girls coach, dismissed WIAA claims that the “super sectional” games on Tuesday will take the place of the first-round Division 1 state games.
“They say the ‘super sectional’ is going to be a great thing to be in,” Klawitter said. “But if you lose them, it doesn’t really matter. You’re not at state. It’s too bad.”
The state tournament now will have Division 5 semifinal games on Thursday afternoon and Division 4 semifinals on Thursday night.
Division 3 semifinals will be played Friday morning, Division 2 semifinals Friday afternoon and Division 1 semifinals Friday night.
Division 5, 4 and 3 championship games will be played Saturday morning and afternoon, with the Division 2 and 1 title games behind held Saturday night.
Milton High, which has been competing in Division 1, appears set to drop to Division 2. Official enrollment figures won’t be determined until April 1.
Scott Randall, the girls basketball coach at Milton, said he thought the proposal would fail when he heard original comments of the plan.
“We were competitive where we were at,” said Randall, whose team went 22-3 this season and lost to Parker in the sectional semifinal. “We were sort of a little fish in a big pond, but there are a lot of good Division 2 teams, too.”
Zach Groelle, the Red Hawks boys basketball coach, welcomed the new format.
“It benefits us a lot,” Groelle said. “I know some people are upset by it. You’re never going to please everybody.”
He also has had the challenge of facing Kenosha Bradford in the tournament.
“The last three years, we had to open against Bradford,” Groelle said. “They are over 2,200 enrollment, while we’re a little over 1,000. That’s a tough first-round game. This will give us a better shot of making some noise in the tournament.”
Klawitter said he knew what way the vote was going when Jerry Petitgoue, the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association executive director, said in April that the coaching group would not advise the WIAA what way to vote.
The WBCA executive committee earlier had rejected the five-division proposal by a 5-3 vote.
“It is what it is,” Klawitter said.
Klawitter also said that the Janesville schools now will be heading east in tournament play.
The veteran coach did take one piece of good news from Thursday’s vote.
“Boy, if you do get to state, and win one game, you’re in the finals,” he said.
Wisconsin is the only state in the upper Midwest that will have five state champions in basketball. Bordering states Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan each have four.