There has been a lot of talk in the community about whether or not Tumwater High School is going the stay in 2A or move up to 3A. I had a pretty good idea how the WIAA classifications worked, and figured the topic might be interesting for a blog. This is a short blog about the basics of how WIAA classifies schools, and the impact of that classification on THS and BHHS.
HOW DOES THE WIAA CLASSIFY TEAMS?
The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association(WIAA) has divided high school competition into 6 statewide classifications, primarily based upon net enrollment.
Net Enrollment is calculated every 4 years, and the calculation excludes seniors. As an example, the net enrollment at THS was 950 at last count(2015/16), even though the total enrollment at THS(including seniors) was about 1250 students. BHHS had a net enrollment, for classification purposes, of 726 students, while its total enrollment was around 865.
The current classifications which are effective from 2016/17 through 2019/20 can be found here. With very limited exceptions, each school plays all of its sports in the assigned classification. The classifications are done in 4 year cycles, with this year(2019/20) being the last year of the prior classifications. WIAA will rework the classifications effective for the 2020/21 school year.
When the last classifications were done in 2016, THS was the 4th largest 2A school, while BHHS fell in the middle of the pack. Here is the current classification list of 2A schools:
Schools can “opt up.” Opting up allows a team play in a higher classification. As an example, during the last go around, one school with 1A enrollment(Archbishop Murphy) opted to play in the 2A classification. 13 teams with 2A enrollment opted to play 3A the last go around. Notably, of the 13 3A schools that opted to play up, only one of them had an enrollment greater than THS and about half of them had an enrollment greater than BHHS.
THE WIAA IS CHANGING THE WAY IT CLASSIFIES SCHOOLS, AND IS MOVING TO A “HARD COUNT.”
WIAA has traditionally tried to divide the schools evenly in each of the 6 classifications(one-sixth in 4A, one-sixth in 3A, etc). WIAA has about 390 participating schools, so each classification has about 65 schools. The largest 65 went to 4A, the next largest 65 went to 3A, etc. There were obviously some exceptions that I will not go into.
Starting with the 2020/21 schools year, instead of using the “one-sixth” method, schools will be classified based upon fixed parameters, or a “hard count.”
Under the prior system, there was some uncertainty with respect to those schools that were close to the threshold as they could not conclusively determine where they would fall at the end of the day given the classifications were based on which “sixth” you fell in as compared with the other 390 or so schools(top sixth, second sixth, etc).
With the changes, a school can look at its count, and, with some certainty, understand where it will be classified. The adjusted net enrollment counts were available November 25, 2019. I have not obtained any official counts, but it is my understanding that the count for THS is somewhere around 875, with 900 being the cutoff for 3A, so THS would remain in the 2A ranks. I am uncertain of where BHHS sits, but am confident BHHS remains somewhere between 450 and 899, thus it will remain 2A.
When the classifications are done, the number in each group will likely be uneven. For example, there could be 70 4A teams, 60 3A teams, 65 2A teams, etc.
THS(and/or BHHS) COULD OPT UP.
THS has a choice to make. THS could play where it is classified. After all, WIAA has determined schools with 900 or fewer students should be in the 2A classification. On the other hand, THS could opt up. Opt ups appear to be liberally granted. If a school wants to compete against larger schools, the WIAA routinely consents.
If THS wants to opt up, the deadline is January 10, 2020. The reclassification process is set to be complete by January 26, 2020 when the WIAA Executive Board meets.
WHAT LEAGUE WOULD THS PLAY IN IF IT OPTED UP TO 3A?
THS would need to affiliate with a league in which to play in 3A sports. As I pointed out in my prior blog, THS currently competes, and pretty much dominates, the Evergreen Conference(EVCO). Most of the local 3A teams(including Capital, North Thurston, Timberline, Shelton, and Yelm) play in the South Sound Conference(SSC). THS could likely affiliate with the SSC. The SSC also includes Gig Harbor, Peninsula, and Central Kitsap. THS now travels as far as Aberdeen, Centralia and Chehalis. A move to the SSC would be beneficial for travel to some degree: most schools would be closer, but the longest road trips would be a little longer.
The competition would definitely be more appropriate, and I am confident THS would not win 75% of its games and 50% of the Conference championships in the SSC.
As a parent of THS athletes, and someone who closely follows many of the THS(and BHHS) teams, I hope the leaders at THS decide to opt up to 3A. My reasoning is twofold:
1. COMPETITION:For competition purposes, the SSC would be significantly better as THS clearly has inappropriate competition in the EVCO. Many THS teams are rarely challenged in league play, and as I pointed out previously, THS teams win nearly 75% of their EVCO games. This is disheartening for the opponents, who often know they have no chance of success. The process also is often detrimental to player and team development as it is difficult to improve in the absence of “like v like” competition. I appreciate there are many high schools game across the state where the competition is imbalanced. However, the manner in which THS dominates the EVCO pretty much across the board is unique from my perspective.
2.COMMUNITY/TRAVEL: I would love to see THS participate in a league where there predominately Thurston County Schools. The travel would be simpler(and more cost effective), the attendance/gates would be larger and the community feel would be enhanced. I have coached in the community for years. I watch athletes from different schools play together on recreational and competitive teams throughout the year, and would love to watch them square off on the field/court much more frequently.
Ultimately, the decision as to whether or not THS opts up will likely be made by the THS administration. If you want your voice heard, you can contact the THS Dean of Students Director, Tim Graham, or the THS Principal, Jeff Broome
As always, please feel free to contact me with any thoughts or comments. Scottkee@citizensfortumwaterschools.com