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Originally published Tuesday, December 18, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Sideline Smitty

Combo leagues can work, if schedule is done right

Q: KingCo 4A and KingCo 3A are considering merging into one league next year and a major reason is that Issaquah, Skyline, and Newport will...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Q: KingCo 4A and KingCo 3A are considering merging into one league next year and a major reason is that Issaquah, Skyline, and Newport will be 4A because of increased enrollment. What do you think of the idea of a combined 3A-4A KingCo Conference?

A: I like it.

The only thing about "combo leagues," as I like to call multi-classification conferences, is that scheduling intelligence is required, particularly in football. You need to keep the big dogs away from weaker programs.

The Western Conference seems to be doing fine as a 3A-4A league, and the Northwest League in Skagit and Whatcom counties is 1A-2A-3A in almost every sport.

The KingCo Conference started in fall 1952 with original members Bothell, Issaquah, Bellevue, Mount Si, Lake Washington and Foster (which left in fall 1964). Mercer Island was the next school aboard, playing a varsity football schedule in fall 1956.

It would be nice to see some of those rivalries, and others, renewed. Bothell and Lake Washington have been 4A since fall 1997 and so have five other schools in the Northshore and Lake Washington school districts.

An added bonus if KingCo becomes 3A-4A is that the 3A suburban schools will get a taste of the city because Ballard, Roosevelt and Garfield are KingCo 4A schools. (I'm assuming that Franklin, which now has 3A enrollment, will have the good sense to return to the Metro League, where it won't be constantly overmatched in most sports.)

Q: Bah, humbug. I want to hear the things that bug you at high-school games.

A: 1. No printed programs for fans. This is particularly irritating in basketball because schools in the Seattle area can get roster information at www.seattletimes.com.

2. Dumb team photos in state programs. The worst team photo in history may have been the Garfield photo in last year's 4A boys basketball program. The players were in practice gear, and there was no way to identify them. The photo was useless to fans.

3. Team photos without coaches. Hey coach, you're part of the team. Get in the picture.

4. Refs who call needless penalties, such as holding away from the point of attack in football, or borderline fouls late in basketball games with the outcome decided. Borderline technical fouls with the game on the line are especially exasperating. Gosh, I haven't seen one of those for four days (Franklin's overtime win over Inglemoor).

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5. Coaches who won't make themselves available to reporters after games. These are high-school games, folks. Reporters from most daily newspapers don't care who won, and they just want some quotes and insight to improve the story. Just cooperate.

6. Announcers who just talk to hear themselves. Mr. Announcer, you're not a disc jockey. Also, I think it's wonderful that you know the home-team athletes well, but a lot of us just walked in the door. Help us. Give us names and numbers with your calls.

7. Overpriced concessions and boiled hot dogs. Hot dogs were created to be grilled and served with mustard from a pump jar, not those wretched, messy packets. And if you're charging $2 or more, warm the bun and supply sauerkraut.

8. That outdated "We've got spirit, yes we do, we've got spirit, how about you?" cheer. It's tired, tired, tired.

9. Fans who "ride a ref" by heckling, particularly in basketball. This would occur more often, but refs can stop the game and tell the home-team administrator on duty to inform the knucklehead that he (yes, it's always a "he") is about to get escorted out of the gym. I'm always delighted to see some buffoon embarrassed by having the game stopped and the ref point at him.

10. Cheerleader squads that think that "yells" are just as entertaining as performances to music. They aren't. Use the band. Give me music and dancing and I won't be so grumpy.

Have a question about high-school sports? Craig Smith will find the answer every Tuesday in The Times. Ask your question in one of the following ways: Voice mail (206-464-8279), snail mail (Craig Smith, Seattle Times Sports, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111) or e-mail csmith@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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