Continuing my rant on the problems with the WIAA and an idea on how they could be solved...
Last time, I pointed out six issues that need to be considered in order to make everything come together. In this post, I'll mention some of my thoughts on those issues.
Classifications: Throughout the history of the WIAA, there have been anywhere from 1 classification up to the current 6 classifications. Over the first 34 years of the WIAA's existence, it alternated between being a 1-class system or a 2-class system (1 class for 15 years total, and 2-class for 19 years total). From 1958-1968, it moved to a 3 class system, but soon expanded to sit at 4 classes. The WIAA stayed at 4 classifications for much longer than any other amount, sticking with it from 1969 until 1997 (28 years). From 1998-2006, there were 5 classifications (and perhaps because this is when I was in high school that seemed to make sense to me). In 2007, the WIAA moved up to the current 6 classifications.
Six classifications, as mentioned, is sometimes a little too watered down in my opinion. Granted, some situations it isn't, but in sports where there is a bit less depth it can become apparent, and this is especially true when tied in with the aforementioned qualification issues. Would five classes be better? Maybe, but I think the big winner is four classifications. That seems to be the number that can solve a lot of these problems.
How should classifications be determined? I'm not really a fan of using how competitive a program is to force a team up/down in the classification, nor do I think it's really necessary to separate public schools from private schools, especially in a state like Washington where there are so few private schools (and some are pretty well isolated from the rest). Socio-economics, maybe, but I'll wait to see how the Oregon experiment with that unfolds on a longer scale before changing anything (and remember, changing the least amount possible is going to be the easiest way to solve the problem - this is a topic that can be addressed down the road). Allowing teams to opt down due to geographic concerns might make some sense, but can lead to undesired results: just take a look at Summit OR, who has been a 6A school by size for quite a while but has been able to dominate the 5A scene because they are geographically isolated - not necessarily fair to the other 5A schools in the state, and prevents the best from matching up with the best at the state level. In the effort to reduce the amount of initial change necessary, I'd say mostly continue using pure enrollment figures for the time being, but the WIAA should make slight adjustments when necessary (near the borders of the classifications) in order to help foster more equitable balance around the state. Also, maybe keep an eye on Oregon's socio-economic factoring to see if that is something the WIAA should explore in the future.
School membership in leagues: assigned or formed? A large part of the Oregon reclassification process every year seems to involve a lot of bickering about what schools should be assigned to what leagues... while I do believe there is some merit to that (such as the WIAA making an executive decision that Archbishop Murphy should be allowed entry into the more competitive 2A Cascade-NWC Football league, for example), overall it might be more trouble than it's worth, and I don't think the WIAA should determine TOO much about what schools should be in what leagues, so I'd say to continue with the status quo when it comes to forming leagues (aside from maybe suggesting initial league placement). However, I do think the WIAA should be able to step in and move Leagues to their proper District, if for no other reason than a more equitable qualification system. A prime example: the NPSL, being made up entirely of King County schools, should be part of District 2 - which is suppose to encompass all of King County.
How should teams get to the state level? Essentially the same format as we have now, except for one format change: 4 regional qualifiers in every classification. Teams compete within their league, then move to a Regional Qualifier, and then to the State level. This would require an additional structural change: the WIAA determines which leagues/districts combine for each regional (and it would be determined by geography). The reason for that change is necessary, and obvious from the point I brought up in the beginning of the story: not all leagues are going to want to combine with other leagues, particularly if they feel they will lose spots to state when doing so because their teams are weaker. By having the WIAA dictate regional assignment, leagues are no longer able to deny more equitable solutions for other leagues, a prime example being that the CBBN would have to resume being a part of the Eastern Regional along with the GSL and MCC, even if they are afraid of the big bad GSL teams. If the WIAA wasn't able to force the regional assignments, then the regional system would quickly become inequitable, especially since there needs to be exactly 4 regionals in order to take place, due to the next point.
How many teams should be represented at the state level? Personally, I like the total amount of teams that are represented at the state meet: 72-96 teams in most sports (often depending on whether or not 1B and 2B, and maybe 1A/2A, isn't combined). In a state where there are between 320-400 teams competing in any given sport, that seems like a reasonable number (about 20-25%). If the WIAA went with a 4 classification system, then I think the best solution is 20 teams per classification (meaning 80 teams in total, or slightly less if there aren't enough teams in the smallest classification). That might seem like an odd amount if you're coming up with a tournament bracket, but there is an easy solution that makes perfect sense when combined with the last point: In a tournament bracket, all regional champions get a first round bye. This would reward teams from succeeding at the regional level, which has many benefits (including but not limited to making it all the more important to do well at the regional rather than just coast by). Building upon that sentiment, a slight change to the way allocations are distributed: to get to the 20 team field, simply add in the regional champion and use the current 16-team multiplier process to account for the rest of the allocations.
As for whether it should be the same for every sport... personally, I think it is easier for the process to be uniform, particularly when it comes to league and classification alignment. Again, less changes often make it easier to get people to agree.
As for how that would all unfold, I'll leave that to another post, as this one is pretty extensive already.
Links to the other parts of this series: Part I - Part III - Part IV - Part V