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March 30, 2011 at 2:15 PM

More changes coming to state hoops? WIBCA, WIAA meet

Mike Colbrese called it a “search and rescue.”

The WIAA’s executive director and members of the executive board met with six representatives from the Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association on Tuesday in an attempt to create an open dialogue that could lead to further changes in the state basketball tournaments.

“We understand where they’re coming from,” Colbrese said. “They obviously would prefer the former 16-team tournament, but they also, I think, understand the board’s position that that’s not the same financially (as in the past), so where do we come together to provide an experience that satisfies both of those concerns?”

Both the WIAA and WIBCA are working to find a model that enhances the experience for both student athletes and fans. But it must also be financially sustainable.

“Compared to a year ago, we feel like we’re headed in the right direction,” said Mountlake Terrace coach Nalin Sood, who is the WIBCA president. “We feel like yesterday’s meeting was positive and there is good dialogue going on between the WIAA and WIBCA and, hopefully, there will be good dialogue between the WIAA and other groups that we can all work together to make this basketball tournament, which, let’s face it, is the cash cow for the WIAA … a positive experience.”

The WIBCA would like to see a return to the 16-team format, which was a modified double-elimination. The 2010 tournament fell $80,000 short of its budget, which was a factor in changing the structure.

The 2011 format, featuring opening-round state tournament games at regional sites which funneled into a modified eight-team, double-elimination tournament produced $30,000 more than anticipated. With that in mind it would seem unlikely the WIAA would completely reverse course.

Sood said he is confident there will be some changes. What those will be remains to be seen. Colbrese will meet with a group of girls coaches Monday as the WIAA continues to seek input. Any changes would have to be approved when the executive board meets April 17 and 18.

“We’re trying to create that win-win without anybody losing anything and the experience being a positive one,” Colbrese said. “We shared with them the data that we’ve collected, both the survey information and the financial information, gave them a summary of the survey and the things we’re hearing about this last year’s tournament.”

Both Colbrese and Sood considered the meeting a step in the right direction.

“We’re going to try to improve things from this year,” Sood said. “We all have a common goal of making the postseason tournaments, whatever they may be for next year and in the future, a great experience for kids.”

I’ve written before that I would be in favor of a change to the tournament format. It seems like the biggest issue with the 16-team modified double-elimination tournament was the consolation games. People simply weren’t going.

Now, this year, attendance was up and the money was up, so financially it was a success, but those opening-round games at regional sites didn’t provide the desired “state experience” for many in attendance.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I give the WIAA a lot of credit for looking to improve the state experience. It would be easy to say that, since it made money, there’s no need for change. It would also be easy to say that, since everything tends to work in two-year cycles, any changes would be a year away.

This meeting is a positive step for everyone involved. I’ll continue to provide updates on this process as they become available.

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