How new WIAA changes may-and may not-affect LRS
Last updated 2/13/2019 at 11:52am
The WIAA Representative Assembly voted Jan. 28 to approve two new amendments regarding the Association’s classification system, which will go into effect starting with the 2020-21 school year.
The amendments significantly alter the classification system with new guidelines, but just how much could and will they affect the Lind-Ritzville/Sprague Athletic Combine and the Northeast 2B League?
Amendment 4.2.0 will change how the WIAA goes about determining what classification a school will be put into. The current system has tried to evenly distribute the same number of schools into each classification, while the new system that will be implemented in 2020-21 will determine a school’s classification solely based on its enrollment figures, called a hard-number cap.
Across the six WIAA classifications (1B, 2B, 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A) in the current 2016-20 cycle, the number of schools in each classification ranged from 60 to 66, with 2B having the fewest number of schools and 3A having the most number of schools. With each classification hovering around 64 schools apiece, it allowed the WIAA to create 16-team or 16-person state tournament brackets for each classification, roughly a four to one ratio across the board.
But LRS athletic director Greg Whitmore, who is vice president of the WIAA Executive Board and a member of its classification committee, said that the current system was ok and worked for awhile, but it “started causing problems and the gap started getting wider between classifications.”
“And there’s a lot of problems when you run a new classification cycle and do the count—there’s schools opting up and opting down—because you have to balance them all the time,” said Whitmore. “So that caused more havoc with leagues.”
Whitmore said the classification committee sought a lot of input from schools and athletic directors across the state, and he said those who were consulted generally agreed that “yeah, it might be a good idea to have the hard count. Let’s just set the line and where we fall, we fall.”
“Now what could change is the tournaments,” said Whitmore. “It could be a little smaller if your classification only has 48 schools, and a little bigger if it has 64 schools. We’re going to keep that four-to-one ratio for state tournaments. So however many schools you have, say 64 schools, you’ll have a 16-team bracket.”
The amendment passed 31-3. The new hard-number classification numbers will be structured as follows:
-Class 4A: 1,300 and over
-Class 3A: 1,299-900
-Class 2A: 899-450
-Class 1A: 449-225
-Class 2B: 224-105
-Class 1B: 104-1
According to Whitmore, Lind-Ritzville/Sprague falls solidly inside the Class 2B enrollment parameters, neither close to moving up into 1A or into moving down to 1B. According to the 2016-2020 enrollment figures used by the WIAA, LRS had a net enrollment of 155.25 students, which ranked 22nd out of 60 2B schools.
The second amendment that was passed by the WIAA Representative Assembly Jan. 28, Amendment 4.3.0, will factor in a school’s free and reduced lunch percentages, which could allow less-affluent schools to move down a classification in an effort to remain competitive athletically.
For example, the statewide free and reduced lunch average is currently at about 43 percent. If a school has a free and reduced lunch count of 50 percent, they would be able to reduce their enrollment reduced by seven percent. A school could only move down one classification due to its adjusted enrollment, and the most a school could reduce its enrollment is set at 40 percent.
“It’s not every time, but in general there’s a correlation between schools with a low socioeconomic status and how well they do [athletically,]” said Whitmore. “We want to provide competitive equity, we don’t want them to be struggling to compete with these schools that have a lot more of the haves than have-nots.”
But so long as LRS stays in the 2B ranks they will not be subject to this amendment, as it will only affect Class 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A schools. Class 1B and 2B schools argued, successfully, that dropping down based on free and reduced lunch data would negatively impact the competitive balance of the state’s smallest schools.
“The 1B schools had no place to go, so we’re protecting the 1B’s a little bit,” said Whitmore. “It was added as an amendment at the last second, and like anything we’ll see how it goes and make some adjustments. In general, we think this is a good direction to go in.”