Searching for a new league after the Cascade Conference voted last month to split up, Archbishop Murphy High School applied to join the Wesco 3A for non-football sports.
Wesco denied Archbishop Murphy’s application — a decision recently upheld by the Northwest District Board — and now the private, Everett-based Catholic school is appealing the matter to the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.
The WIAA District Directors Appeals Board is scheduled to hear Archbishop Murphy’s appeal Sunday, according to Northwest District athletic director Jim Piccolo.
Piccolo said Archbishop Murphy, a 2A school, plans to play football in the Northwest Conference regardless of how the WIAA appeal unfolds. The NWC is in the process of finalizing a two-tiered system for its Class 2A football programs to improve competitive balance and help struggling teams. The 2A schools in the NWC include Anacortes, Bellingham, Blaine, Burlington-Edison, Lakewood, Lynden, Sehome and Sedro-Woolley.
After Archbishop Murphy’s application to join Wesco for non-football sports was denied, the school appealed the decision to the Northwest District Board. Archbishop Murphy and Wesco representatives spoke in front of the district board during a Jan. 8 meeting. The board later upheld Wesco’s decision, Piccolo said.
Following the board’s action, Archbishop Murphy appealed to the WIAA District Directors Appeals Board. Depending on the outcome of Sunday’s hearing, the issue could go to the WIAA Executive Board, Piccolo said.
Archbishop Murphy is searching for a new home after the Cascade Conference voted in December to dissolve its multi-classification league at the end of the current school year.
Five of the Cascade Conference’s seven schools — Granite Falls, Cedar Park Christian-Bothell, King’s, South Whidbey and Sultan — plan to form a new 1A league next fall called the North Sound Conference.
That left the Cascade Conference’s remaining members — 2A schools Archbishop Murphy and Cedarcrest — needing to find a new home.
At the Jan. 8 meeting before the Northwest District Board, Archbishop Murphy officials addressed the “denial points” sent to them by Wesco.
According to minutes from the meeting, the reasons Wesco provided for denying Archbishop Murphy entry included the school’s enrollment size and “lack of benefit” to the conference.
Wesco representatives explained the latter by listing concerns involving Archbishop Murphy’s football stadium, lack of athletic facilities and lack of C teams for basketball and volleyball. Wesco representatives also mentioned that Archbishop Murphy, being a 2A school, wouldn’t provide the conference an additional state-playoff allocation.
The Wesco 3A currently has 13 members, including one 2A school, Mountlake Terrace.
In response, Archbishop Murphy representatives said the school is willing to move up to 3A in two years and that the school will develop a plan for increasing student enrollment, according to the hearing’s minutes.
Archbishop Murphy representatives also said the school is willing to develop plans to build a track facility and improve the football stadium, and that the school is willing to add C teams for basketball and volleyball.
According to the hearing’s minutes, Archbishop Murphy representatives also were asked about the “perception of recruiting” and the school’s process for tuition assistance.
Archbishop Murphy representatives responded that, if requested, the school would be willing to undergo a financial audit and evaluation of its athletic programs.
Critics claim private schools such as Archbishop Murphy have a competitive athletic advantage over public schools because of the significantly larger area they draw from. Students can enroll in private schools if they live within a 50-mile radius of the campus, whereas public-school students must reside within the boundaries of their school district.
Archbishop Murphy’s football team made national news during the 2016 season when five Cascade Conference teams forfeited to the eventual 2A state champion Wildcats. The forfeiting schools cited player-safety concerns over facing an ultra-talented and physically superior Archbishop Murphy team that featured four linemen who weighed 260 pounds or more.