More shots. More champions. More seeding.
At a busy June meeting, the WIAA Board of Control on Thursday approved major changes in winter sports, some to be implemented next winter and some in the 2019-2020 season.
Most notably, the Board decided by a 6-4 decision to approve implementation of a 35-second shot clock for varsity boys and girls basketball games.
The other state associations currently using a shot clock for high school basketball are California, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Washington.
Implementation of the shot clock will involve both one-time and ongoing expenses for schools.
Madison Memorial athletic director Jeremy Schlitz estimated a one-time cost of about $4,000 to obtain and install the necessary equipment — at least two displays that show the time remaining, and control hardware to be used at the scorers’ table.
Schlitz also estimated that Memorial would pay its shot-clock operator about $25 per varsity game. If boys and girls teams play half of their 22 regular-season games at home, that would be an annual outlay of $550 on top of the original equipment cost. Schlitz said it’s his understanding that shot-clock operators need not be licensed officials.
Urban vs. rural
The WIAA also asked its basketball advisory committee to study and make recommendations on a new plan that would take geographical location of a school into account when assigning schools to one of five enrollment divisions.
Under the current proposal — which has not faced a Board of Control vote — schools with 1,200 or more students would be assigned to Division 1, and those with 600 to 1,199 would be in Division 2.
From there, the state’s classification of a school’s home zip code as having “city, suburban, town or rural” demographics will come into play.
Under the proposal, Division 3 will include all schools with 599 or fewer students that are classified as being in “city” or “suburban” zip codes by the state. Also in Division 3 would be schools of 450 to 599 students that are based in “town” or “rural” zip codes and don’t fit among the Division 4 and 5 classes.
Division 4 and 5 would be comprised of the smallest 256 “town” or “rural” schools, with the 128 smallest in Division 5 and the next 128 smallest in Division 4.
With only a few exceptions, every state private school will face an “urban” or “suburban” classification, placing them in Division 3. For instance, Madison Abundant Life would move from Division 5 to Division 3 under this plan.
The proposal would likely move recent basketball powers such as Whitefish Bay Dominican and Racine St. Catherine’s (and Wisconsin Rapids Assumption on the girls side) to Division 3.
Also, some rural public schools are expected to drop from their current Division 3 status into Division 4 — which, as a result, would likely see a larger enrollment disparity between its largest and smallest participants. Also, schools such as Deerfield and Mineral Point might fall into Division 5.
The proposal must face the scrutiny of the coaches’ advisory committee and Board of Control before it can be presented at the WIAA’s annual meeting in April.
State re-seeding OK’d
The Board also approved a request to reorganize the state boys and girls basketball and team wrestling tournaments, starting this coming season, by re-seeding the state field after sectional finals.
In basketball, four teams qualify for state in each of five divisions, as each qualifier must win a geographically assigned sectional. In the recent past, the state tournament bracket was pre-determined so that the winner of a specific sectional was assigned to meet the winner of another specific sectional in semifinal play.
With this change, however, the participating coaches in each division will vote after sectional finals to re-seed the four qualifiers, with the No. 1-seeded team meeting the No. 4-seeded team in one semifinal, and No. 2 meeting No. 3 in the other. A Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association representative will break any ties.
In team wrestling, the top four teams in the eight-team Division 1 field will be seeded, with the lower four teams then randomly chosen to meet a seeded team in the quarterfinal round. In Divisions 2 and 3, which have four state qualifiers each, the top two teams will be seeded and the two remaining teams will be randomly assigned.
Hockey adds Division 2
The Board also approved a change in the organization of the boys hockey tournament, by a 9-1 vote. On a two-year, experimental basis, the tournament will be split into two divisions, with the programs that have the 32 smallest enrollments dropping to Division 2.
If the experiment becomes the rule, the next two state hockey tournaments would be the last to feature eight-team fields competing for a single championship. Starting in 2020, four Division 1 programs and four Division 2 programs would advance to the state tournament, with two championships at stake.
The move would require one fewer game to be played in the state tournament, with four semifinal games and two championship games needed instead of four quarterfinals, two semifinals and one championship game.
The move was put forward in part to stem the burgeoning proliferation of co-operative programs. Coach Pete Rothering of Madison Edgewood, a member of the WIAA coaches’ advisory committee for boys hockey, said his group proposed keeping Division 1 at eight state qualifiers and adding four Division 2 qualifiers, but the proposal that passed included only four teams in each division.
Last year, 88 boys hockey programs were entered in the WIAA postseason, and 43 of those were co-operative programs combining two or more schools. Because the enrollment of every school in a co-operative program will be included in the total enrollment figure assigned to that program, it’s likely that most co-op programs will be forced into Division 1.
“The real purpose (for the coaches’ proposal) is to give the smaller, often rural schools an opportunity,” Rothering said. “The way it stands, they have no chance to compete with the larger schools and co-ops.”
Under the current single-division setup, there is no incentive against building one mega-co-op program with up to 12 schools, instead of two or more separate programs of two or three schools each. This has led to dissension — some schools that go it alone, such as Edgewood (enrollment 544), are forced to compete with co-op programs that are able to draw from an enrollment pool as large as more than 8,900.
The WIAA’s single 12-school co-op builds a single program from players from Sheboygan South, Cedar Grove-Belgium, Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah, Howards Grove, Kohler, Manitowoc, Manitowoc Lutheran, Oostburg, Random Lake, Sheboygan Lutheran, Sheboygan Falls and Sheboygan North. According to 2016-2017 enrollment figures, the combined enrollment of those schools is 7,209.
But that’s not the largest enrollment combination seen among hockey co-ops. The five-school Kenosha Bradford co-op, which includes Kenosha Indian Trail (the state’s largest school), Kenosha Tremper, Westosha Central and Wilmot, has a combined enrollment of 8,939.