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Originally published December 21, 2009 at 7:45 PM | Page modified December 21, 2009 at 9:46 PM

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Q & A about WIAA reclassification plans

Mike Colbrese, WIAA executive director, answers questions about the next two-year reclassification cycle for high school athletic teams in the state.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Final reclassification lines for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years were released by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association on Friday. In a question-and-answer session with The Seattle Times, WIAA executive director Mike Colbrese addressed issues related to reclassification.

Q: Now that final reclassification lines are drawn, are there any big surprises?

A: "Member schools are going to going to get what they wanted. We're able to have the number of schools in each classification equalized, the way member schools wanted to have them. I don't think it's any different than what people thought it was going to be."

Colbrese emphasized that WIAA staff members spent a great deal of time with league administrators across the state before the Dec. 15 opt-up deadline, when schools can choose to "opt up" to play in a higher enrollment classification. The WIAA staff updated the leagues on what other schools were doing in terms of choosing classifications. That enabled schools to make informed decisions by Dec. 15, rather than waiting until the final opt-up deadline of 2010.

Q: How many more opt-ups do you anticipate?

A: "Very few, very few at all ... If there are a half a dozen, I'd be surprised."

Q: So, this is as close to a best-case scenario for a classification system as you could expect?

A: "I think what people need to realize is there is no perfect classification system. ... There is no one answer. It is really whatever people feel they can support. There is not one system that fits all, in one state or from state to state. ... This is about as close as you can get to a perfect system."

Colbrese said that the No. 1 priority member schools have expressed regarding classification is having equal opportunity to get to postseason play. Currently, there are 78 Class 4A schools, 68 3A schools and 55 2A schools, each classification with 16 available state berths in team sports. If no additional schools opt up to higher classifications for 2010-12, there will be 66 4A schools, 66 3A schools and 65 2A schools.

The other priority is not having too great of a disparity between enrollments at the largest and smallest school within each classification.

Q: How many more multi-classification leagues are we likely to see in 2010-11?

A: "It's hard to say yet for sure. We know of one for sure, and that's the Narrows League, but so many of them have been multi-classification leagues already. The ones that traditionally were not, are not.

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Q: How important are economics, such as travel costs, when schools are considering league affiliations?

A: "More than they ever have been. That's the real driver behind multi-classification [leagues]."

Q: What will the playoff implications be for multi-classification leagues, like KingCo 3A/2A, for instance, if the number of 2A schools increase?

A: "I think it's way too early to tell."

Q: Why do all the Metro League schools opt up to 3A (only Bainbridge falls there naturally)? Is there a perception that 4A and 3A are more prestigious than 2A and 1A?

A: "I've heard all kinds of rationale. No. 1, we heard that Metro did not want to be a multi-classification league. I think that was first and foremost. And No. 2, some of them didn't like the idea — and this is all second hand — [they] didn't want to go to Yakima to play [2A state] basketball."

Q: Will it ever be possible for schools to opt up for some sports, like football and basketball, but compete in their true classification for others, like tennis, track and golf?

A: "If you opt up in one, you opt up in all."

Q: Why reclassify every two years instead of every four?

A: "A year ago, we had an amendment proposed (to the WIAA Representative Assembly) to go to every four years, and nobody wanted it. Obviously, the people who proposed it wanted it, but they're just so concerned that enrollments are changing so rapidly that they don't want to get locked into a classification for four years."

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