It's premature to implement multiplier without more discussion

Notre Dame battled DeForest in the Division 2 girls state basketball title game. (Doug Ritchay/WLUK)
Notre Dame battled DeForest in the Division 2 girls state basketball title game. (Doug Ritchay/WLUK)
Wednesday I’m taking a drive to Stevens Point for the WIAA annual meeting, but this isn’t your ordinary meeting.

The meeting will draw plenty of attention as maybe more than 400 WIAA member schools will be in attendance as there is a vote taking place that could reshape the membership in the WIAA.

The Six Rivers Conference wrote up a petition and received the necessary signatures (10 percent of the WIAA) to have a vote on placing a 1.65 multiplier on private schools. The petition was drawn up because certain schools believe private schools have an unfair advantage because they have no boundaries from which to draw students.

This in turn apparently leads to an uneven playing field giving the private schools an edge.

“We feel private schools coming from large population areas have an unfair advantage over small rural schools,” Six Rivers secretary/treasurer Jim 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, which would increase a private school’s enrollment by 1.65, would be placed on every sport for every private school and that seems foolish. This appears to be driven by basketball and those in favor will point to Dominican winning three straight Division 4 boys state basketball titles, while Notre Dame has won two straight Division 2 girls state basketball titles.

The other side can argue Germantown has won three straight Division 1 boys state basketball titles.

According to the WIAA, 76 of the 505 member schools are private, which is 15 percent. In some sports the state tournament participation by private schools exceeds 15 percent, but in others it’s less than 15 percent.

Let’s go to the premier sports in the state to see what happens there: In the last five seasons, 46 of the 200 teams that qualified for the boys and girls state basketball tournaments were private (23 percent). In football, 11 of the 70 teams that played in the state title game over the last five years were private (15.7 percent), but none last year.

In some other sports over the last five seasons:

  • No private schools have qualified for the team state wrestling tournament (zero percent).

  • In spring baseball, 23 of 100 teams that qualified for the state tournament (23 percent) were private.

  • In softball, 7 of 100 teams that qualified for the state tournament were private (7 percent).

  • In boys soccer, 29 of the 80 teams that qualified for the state tournament were private (36.2 percent).

  • In girls soccer, 32 of the 80 teams that qualified for the state tournament were private (40 percent).

  • In boys swimming and diving, 5 of the 100 teams that qualified for the state meet were private (5 percent).

It’s a mixed bag, but it’s not domination. If a multiplier of 1.65 is to be applied it should be because private schools are dominating and that’s not the case.

Private schools excel in certain sports and not in others, that’s obvious. Notre Dame has been to the girls state basketball tournament the last three seasons, but what about the boys’ team?

And looking to next season, Notre Dame will be hard-pressed to make it four straight as the Tritons lose all-state player Allie LeClaire and Eliza Campbell. I’m not sure if any school in favor of the multiplier is pointing the finger at Notre Dame, but before the Tritons went on their run New London, a public school, won two straight Division 2 state titles and reached state three years in a row.

The 14 teams in the Six Rivers Conference brought this up because they feel the playing field is unfair, but the 1.65 multiplier number was attached because Illinois used it.

If the multiplier is voted in favor it could be implemented for the spring tournament series, and if not then, next fall. Notre Dame administrator Bob Pauly understands the concern and didn’t shove it aside.

"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,” Pauly said.

In other words, some schools aren’t prepared fully to move ahead with it at this time.

"I think it came up so fast that the entire state, WIAA included, wasn't prepared for it,” Ashwaubenon athletics director Dave Steavpack said. “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 WIAA Board of Control sent a letter to all member schools, informing them what all this means. The letter stated most state associations in the country have had similar discussions and those who have implemented a multiplier have not experienced great success.

Also, since a fifth division was added to basketball there has been relatively no membership-wide discussion on the concerns of the perceived advantage for private schools.

Wednesday will be interesting, but implementing a multiplier, maybe as soon as May, or by fall, is premature. There needs to be more discussion.

 Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay

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