The state basketball format, it seems, is changing again.
The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association posted a survey Thursday detailing three proposals to change the state tournament.
If there’s one thing that can be taken from the proposals it’s that state basketball fans better prepare for a trip to Yakima. In two of the proposals, the early rounds of the tournament for all six classifications start in Yakima. The three biggest classifications conclude in Tacoma.
Another major change: The state basketball tournaments will be spread over three weeks instead of the nine days that the current format occupies.
The current format, which began in 2017, has 16 teams qualify for the regional round, which eliminates four teams, held mostly at high school sites. Twelve teams head to state (4A and 3A in the Tacoma Dome; 2A and 1A at the Yakima SunDome; 2B and 1B at the Spokane Arena) for a four-day tournament.
Here’s a look at the proposals:
— Super Regional Option 1: In this proposal, 16 teams qualify for a single-elimination regional round at a high school or college site. Eight teams advance to a single-elimination super regional the following week, also held at a high school or college site. The top four teams for 4A, 3A and 2A will head to a two-day tournament at the Tacoma Dome the following week. The 1A, 2B and 1B site will either be Yakima or Spokane.
— Super Regional Option 2: In this proposal, 16 teams qualify for a single-elimination regional round at a high school or college site. The next week, eight teams advance to a super regional at the Yakima SunDome featuring all six classifications playing over three days (1B and 2B on Thursday; 1A and 2A on Friday; 3A and 4A on Saturday). The top four teams for 4A, 3A and 2A will head to a two-day tournament at the Tacoma Dome the following week. The 1A, 2B and 1B site will either be Yakima or Spokane.
— Rounds 1 and 2 in Yakima Option: In this format, the 1A, 2B and 1B schools play two days each the last week of February in Yakima to go from 16 teams to four. Those teams will head to Spokane the next week to crown a champion. The 4A, 3A, 2A schools will head to Yakima the first week of March and play two days each to whittle 16 teams down to four, which will head to Tacoma the following week to crown a champion.
In all three formats, teams will still qualify through district tournaments and will be seeded through the state seeding committee, which is taking the place of the Rating Percentage Index (RPI) that has seeded state since 2017.
The state basketball format has been a contentious issue for the WIAA since 2011 when it moved from the 16-team, modified double-elimination format that had been in place since the mid 1980s. In 2011, the WIAA brought back the regional round (which was in place before the 16-team format) and only eight teams qualified for state at the Tacoma Dome, Yakima SunDome or Spokane Arena.
This format was wildly unpopular with the state basketball coaches associations, who complained that only half of the players got the “state experience” than before. The move in 2017 allowed at least 12 teams to play at the larger venues.
The format allowed the WIAA to half the rental for the state facilities as it could combine two classifications in the same venue. The WIAA, which derives much of its revenue through state tournaments, made the moves after years of declining attendance.
One of the goals the WIAA listed for these moves, along with reducing the fatigue of players who might have to play four consecutive days at state, was to “reduce expenses for member schools, spectators and the Association.”
The survey is live through Wednesday and can be accessed through the WIAA app.