GREEN BAY — A vote will take place Wednesday that could change high school sports at least for the foreseeable future when the WIAA Annual Meeting takes place in Stevens Point.
A petition was signed by more than 10 percent of the member schools to add a multiplier to private schools when determining division placing.
In the proposal, a private school’s enrollment would be multiplied by 1.65 to determine its playoff division. The amendment was proposed by the members of the Six Rivers Conference in southwestern Wisconsin who say they feel private schools have the advantage of not having geographical boundaries.
If passed, the multiplier could be in place as early as May, and if not this May, then the start of next school year.
“I think it came up so fast that the entire state, WIAA included, wasn’t prepared for it,” Ashwaubenon athletics director Dave Steavpack said. “You know, but it is something that people have discussed over time.
“I don’t know if 1.65 is the answer, I don’t know if 1.5 is the answer. I don’t know if any multiplier is the answer.”
The multiplier of 1.65 is in place because that’s what Illinois has used.
“It hasn’t been effective in Illinois and they have changed their multiplier numerous times to kind of meet the needs of that state association,” Steavpack said.
“Most of us would like fair-minded, even-keel people to discuss it, get it on the table; have an advisory committee take a look at it; maybe spend a year on it and then make a reasonable advisement to the WIAA,” Notre Dame administrator Bob Pauly said.
Pauly may be referring to Notre Dame in girls basketball which has won two straight Division 2 state titles, while Dominican has won three straight boys state titles in Division 3. Nonetheless, Germantown has won three straight Division1 boys state titles and that’s a public school.
Implementing a multiplier suggests private schools have an advantage over public schools, but Notre Dame doesn’t believe it or any other private school has an advantage over public when it comes to competing in sports.
“Private schools can draw students from outside their areas, but so can public schools,” Pauly said. “Nobody’s talking about open enrollment. You got to be careful you do not react to a particular private school or two that have had a nice run, especially in basketball.”
Jim Siedenburg, the secretary-treasurer of the Six Rivers Conference, is the person who wrote the petition and asked schools to sign it and gives his reasoning.
“We feel private schools coming from large population areas have an unfair advantage over small rural schools,” Siedenburg said. “We contend that the ability to enroll additional and/or better athletes gives private schools an unfair advantage.
“We want a level playing field for our athletes. Our position remains that private schools in large population areas have an unfair advantage over rural public schools.”
“We reaffirm our opinion that public and private schools of similar enrollment are not equal.”
The multiplier might’ve come up because of the private schools’ success in basketball, but this would cover all sports and private schools don’t have the same success in every sport.
This past football season the 14 teams in the state championship games were all public. In boys and girls basketball, 12 of the 40 teams that qualified for the state tournament were private schools, that is 30 percent. According to the WIAA, there are 505 schools in the state, 76 which are private, or 15 percent.
In wrestling over the last five years not one private school has made the state tournament, while in boys and girls soccer 61 of the 160 teams that made the state tournament the last five years were public (38 percent).
It appears whatever side of the fence you’re on an argument can be made in your favor. Wednesday’s vote will have anybody interested in high school sports in the state on the edge of his or her seat.
If passed, WIAA sports may never be the same and if not passed, don’t expect this subject to die.
“If it’s voted in, I think there’s going to be litigation that’s going to follow that’ll be in the courts for a number of years,” Steavpack said. “This is about high school sports and this is about high school kids that want to throw a football or want to shoot a basket or want to swim in a pool.”
And now it’s going beyond the kids.
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay