WIAA Board Votes Down Rural/Urban Basketball Proposal

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Copyright 2018 The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


STEVENS POINT - The issue of competitive equity continues to be a tough one for the WIAA to solve.

Deemed as discriminatory and having "a lot of holes" by Board of Control members, the group declined to forward for membership vote a rural/urban proposal that would have forced some small schools in urban and suburban areas to play up a division in boys and girls basketball.

During a 40-minute discussion during its monthly meeting Wednesday, the board approved a motion to change that proposal into an amendment to the constitution. The board then voted, 6-5, against forwarding that amendment to the annual meeting in April where every WIAA school would have had a chance to vote on the measure.

Eric Coleman of Milwaukee Public Schools and Steve Knetcht of the Kenosha Unified School District, the area members on the board, voted against presenting the plan to the membership and were philosophically against approving the proposal in any form.

They weren't the only ones with concerns.

"If we're going to advance something as a solution, it has to be a better version of this in my opinion," said board member Ted Knutson of La Crosse Aquinas.

The plan was a retooled version of one that board member Luke Francios presented to the board in June. The original plan would have taken all schools listed as urban or suburban by the U.S. Census Bureau, no matter how small, and placed them no lower than Division 3. The revamped plan eliminated the possibility of schools jumping up two divisions and allowed urban/suburban schools with enrollments in the bottom half of their original division to remain in that division.

The revised plan received mixed response as it went through the WIAA's committee process.

Critics of the plan have argued that it discriminates against minorities and religious schools, that the schools that move divisions include programs that have had only modest basketball success and that the proposal shouldn't just focus on basketball. Those concerns were echoed by board members Wednesday.

Board members also expressed concern about the process. The issue has usually been dealt with as a constitutional matter that is decided by membership vote at the annual meeting. By making it a season regulation change, a membership vote wasn't required.

Concern over the process led to the motion to make the proposal a constitutional amendment. In the end, there were not enough board members who felt the plan was ready for review.

That left the board in the odd spot of having no proposal to vote on. Parliamentary procedure prevented the board from going back and voting on the urban/rural plan.

This probably won't be the end of the WIAA grappling with competitive equity and the rural/urban, public/private issue.

"I think we're close, but we're not there yet for a plan," said board member Dennis Birr (New Lisbon). "But there is an issue and the numbers substantiate that."

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February 1, 2018


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