MOUNT HOREB — For the first time in some time, the eighth and final of the WIAA’s annual area meetings — held Monday at Mount Horeb High School — was not a firing ground for athletic directors to debate proposed major changes.
Nor was it an opportunity for athletic directors from area high schools to hash over the problems brought forth by recent major changes.
Instead, several smaller topics served as discussion points as the administrative body for Wisconsin high school sports kept working to navigate toward progress in changing waters.
The perennial hot-button area of conference realignment was, more or less, pushed to the back burner this year. For one thing, the WIAA’s implementation of new, football-only conferences already is approved and locked in for the 2020 season. The other — regarding conference realignment in all the other sports — is on hold, thanks to a one-year moratorium on realignment requests.
In football, schools now are only allowed to request conference changes, shift their status between 11-player and 8-player football or form co-operative programs during even-numbered years with an application deadline of Dec. 1. As a result, it will be more than a year until the first batch of change requests arrives in the WIAA office.
In other sports, the WIAA debuted the prototype of a new program which would require schools to apply for conference realignment online on a page of the WIAA website that would present each request — and each school’s reasons for making the request — in public view.
You have free articles remaining.
“(This will be) more formalized, (with) more transparency (and) better communication,” said WIAA executive director Dave Anderson.
Madison Memorial athletic director Jeremy Schlitz, part of the WIAA’s Realignment Committee, said the “rationale behind the (final WIAA approval/disapproval) decision will be presented along with the decision, so concerns can be addressed and reapplications can be made.”
Another constant, yet seemingly impossible challenge — that of finding an equitable way to attack the problem of private-school dominance in lower divisions in many WIAA sports — was mentioned only once, in passing, during Monday’s discussion.
Instead, issues on the periphery of most athletic directors’ radar screens came under focus Monday. A recap of some of these topics:
- The WIAA has seen a notable increase in the number of transfer eligibility applications, and Anderson said “on an increasing level, everything that comes into (consideration) for a transfer application involves bullying and hazing. … We have member schools advancing transfer requests on behalf of a parent who says their child is being bullied.”
Athletic directors were told that documentation would be required when schools submit a bullying-related transfer request, including proof that the student-athlete was being bullied, that it was frequent and regular, and that the school did follow its bullying protocol.
- The WIAA noted this fall, for the first time, the state boys and girls volleyball tournaments will be held simultaneously at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon in an effort to raise awareness and, it hopes, participation in the boys game. The Madison area is one of few state hot spots for the sport.
- This winter, for the first time, the WIAA state boys hockey tournament will be split into two divisions of four teams each, instead of one division of eight teams. The change was made to stem the tide of growing multi-school co-operative programs.
- Sauk Prairie athletic director Josh Boyer noted the WIAA’s recent proposal to add two games to the regular-season boys and girls basketball schedule, increasing the limit to 24 games (22 for schools playing opponents outside of Wisconsin and its contiguous neighboring states). Anderson said the proposal passed the Advisory Council and Board of Control on a split vote.
- Stoughton athletic director Mel Dow pointed out “almost 20 states” now have a state girls wrestling competition, and urged the WIAA to consider such a move. Last season, 127 WIAA-member wrestling programs had at least one girl in the program.
- Beloit Turner athletic director Andrew Coldren asked whether the WIAA baseball tournament might expand to five divisions, now that it is consolidated as a single spring tournament instead of separate spring and summer tournaments. He pointed out that WIAA softball is a five-division sport. Anderson said there was no plan to add a division in the near future, making the point that softball games often finish within 90 minutes while baseball games often take up to three hours.