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WIAA unveils Tournament Performance Factor to address competitive balance

09/14/2022, 2:15pm CDT
By Travis Wilson

At the District 3 Area Meeting held Wednesday at Mauston High School, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association unveiled a proposal that would significantly change how teams are placed in divisions for postseason play.

While not the only topic on the agenda, the Competitive Balance Ad Hoc Committee's Report and recommendation certainly generated the most interest and most discussion.

The meeting was one of seven that will be conducted around the state over the course of the next two weeks, as the WIAA staff travels to visit with athletic directors and school personnel to get a gauge on what the membership is feeling and discuss items that the association faces and could be on the horizon.

The discussion around competitive balance is nothing new, and has been a topic for debate going back to when the WIAA absorbed the former Wisconsin Independent Schools Athletic Association (WISAA) schools back in 2000. The situation boiled over in 2014 when a group of schools forced an amendment on the WIAA Annual Meeting agenda that would have applied a 1.65 enrollment multiplier on all private schools.

In a contentious meeting that year, the membership voted to delay the Multiplier and instead send it for further study. An ad hoc committee was formed at that time to research the issues and make a recommendation. That committee recommended a Success Factor that is virtually identical to large parts of the new Tournament Performance Factor that would apply to all schools based on past history of state tournament success.

In April of 2015, the schools voted to instead to consider the Multiplier again, along with a Free and Reduced Lunch Reducer. Both were voted down handily. Finally, in 2016, the Success Factor was again brought forward for an official vote, and in the closest of any of the competitive balance decisions to date, rejected 221-198.

Fast forward to today, with continued unrest regarding competitive balance, and last year's creation of a new Competitive Balance Ad Hoc Committee. 

After months of work and discussions, including significant data analysis, the Committee is unveiling its recommendations at the WIAA Area Meetings.

Keep in mind this is just a proposal right now, with the WIAA gathering feedback at Area Meetings to be used for possible changes or modification before finalized plans are considered by the Board of Control, likely at the February 1, 2023 meeting.


Dominican's boys basketball dominance that included five straight state titles from 2012 to 2016 would be impacted by the proposed Tournament Performance Factor

The Tournament Performance Factor uses the exact same points-based system to determine if teams will move up a division based on past success as did the Success Factor recommended back in 2015, and is applied equally to public schools and private schools.

Points will be awarded based upon the finish of the team in the tournament series:

  • 4 points for winning a state title
  • 3 points for advancing to the championship game
  • 2 points for advancing to the state semifinal (final 4)
  • 1 point for advancing to the state quarterfinal, sectional final or Level 3 11-player FB, Level 2 8-player FB (final 8 teams).

At the team level, those teams that accumulate six or more points in the previous three years will be placed up one division from their normal postseason classification. No team will be moved up more than one division per year.

As an example provided by the WIAA for a hypothetical team:

  • Year 1 - 0 points - Division 4
  • Year 2 - 0 points - Division 4
  • Year 3 - 0 points - Division 4 - 3-year total = 0 points
  • Year 4 - 1 point - D4 - Sectional Final; 3-year total = 1 point
  • Year 5 - 2 points - D4 - State Appearance-(Final 4); 3-year total = 3 points
  • Year 6 - 3 points - D4 - State Runner-Up; 3-year total = 6 points (will move up to D3)
  • Year 7 - 4 points - D3 - State Championship; 3-year total = 9 points
  • Year 8 - 0 points - Division 3 - 3-year total = 7 points
  • Year 9 - 0 points - Division 3 - 3-year total = 4 points (will move down to D4)
  • Year 10 - 1 point - Division 4 - 3-year total = 1 point

There will be an appeals process in place for those teams that would be impacted by the Tournament Performance Factor, with schools able to appeal to a to-be-formed Classification Committee based on the following factors:

  • Prior year out-of-building student percentage on rosters or historical movement of student athletes
  • Socioeconomics of the school's population (i.e. % of student body on Free and Reduced Lunch rate)
  • Demographics of the school's population
  • Competitive history and balance - non-success and success
  • Geography
  • School's enrollment trend
  • Student participation rate in WIAA-sponsored activities
  • Student enrollment factors (i.e. open enrollment, students from outside your school's location)


Schools could request their playoff classification under the new proposal instead of being assigned strictly by enrollment

Perhaps even more significantly than the Tournament Performance Factor, the proposal would also incorporate a system whereby each school could submit a request to WIAA staff indicating the classification in which the schools wishes to compete in each sport, by an established deadline.

Enrollments would still be collected and utilized as part of the criteria for determining playoff placements.

This ability to schools to self-identify which division they feel they should be in for each sport independently could allow schools to move up or down, depending on WIAA approval.

Criteria that schools could use to justify their change, and that the WIAA staff would consider are the same as above:

  • Prior year out-of-building student percentage on rosters or historical movement of student athletes
  • Socioeconomics of the school's population (i.e. % of student body on Free and Reduced Lunch rate)
  • Demographics of the school's population
  • Competitive history and balance - non-success and success
  • Geography
  • School's enrollment trend
  • Student participation rate in WIAA-sponsored activities
  • Student enrollment factors (i.e. open enrollment, students from outside your school's location)

If approved as presented, the process for utilizing both the school classification request and Tournament Performance Factor processes would look like this:

1. Enrollment collected
2. Requests for placement to WIAA Staff (up or down)
3. Tournament Performance Factor Applied
4. Divisional placement released
5. Schools that were moved up based on performance factor can
appeal to the classification committee
6. Classification Committee considers appeals
7. Divisional placement finalized

The football process would look slightly different because not all schools make the football playoffs, the playoff field and divisions are not determined until the end of the regular season, and the very short turnaround at the end of the year. For football-only, schools would not be able to request placement to WIAA staff. Instead, only the Tournament Performance Factor would be applied, with an opportunity to appeal.

Below is a projected timeline laid out by the WIAA regarding the proposed playoff classification changes:

  • September 2022 -- Area Meeting discussions and feedback
  • Oct. 2022 - Jan. 2023 -- Committee continues to meet to incorporate feedback and modify plan
  • February 1, 2023 -- Committee presents a finalized proposal to the WIAA Board of Control
  • February - April 2023 -- If BOC approves advancement of proposal to the Annual Meeting, committee conducts membership engagement sessions to create better understanding of the proposal
  • April 2023 -- If BOC approves advancement of proposal, member schools vote at Annual Meeting
  • 2024-25 School Year -- Implementation, if membership passes proposal

Other Agenda Items

There were other items discussed on the WIAA's Area Meeting agenda:

  • WIAA Executive Director Stephanie Hauser gave an update on the status of an ad hoc committee's work to develop a proposal to sanction lacrosse as a WIAA sport. That work continues, and a formal proposal for the Board of Control to vote on should be available soon, with an eye towards implementing boys and girls lacrosse as new spring sports in the spring of 2024.
  • Hauser indicated a group of schools may pursue a member petition to place a proposal to add coaching contact days during the school year and outside the sports season on the April Annual Meeting agenda.
  • The administrators in attendance discussed the spring start dates, and the challenges of adjusting seasons based on venue dates and contracts, impacts of club teams on pushing the start date back, and other factors. WIAA Associate Director Mel Dow noted that there were six players from teams who qualified for the baseball state tournament that withdrew because they moved on to play club baseball.
  • Name, Image, and Likeness was discussed, with those in attendance showing disfavor for adding NIL language. This was the opposite of the response at Tuesday's meeting in the Milwaukee area.
  • Dow said a number of groups have caused issues with student eligibility by using/exploiting student-athletes to support their brands. Already this year, 26 student-athletes have been impacted by amateur status violations. All athletes have had their eligibility restored by working through the process.

  • Possible expansion of football playoffs was discussed, including a recent member survey that showed 55% support for remaining the same. 17% supported a pod-type option for teams who did not qualify for the regular playoffs. 15% favored an NIT-type tournament for non-playoff qualifiers. 11% favored all play for football.

  • The WIAA garnered feedback on why more schools are not members of the association at the middle school level (just 45 are middle level members in the state), and the interest in sponsoring state tournaments at the middle level.

  • Hauser teased a football playoff "Reveal Show" that will be coming this year. The WIAA is working with a production company and broadcast partners on distribution. Our staff has been requested to be involved in the show. More information will be available at a later date.

  • Hauser also said the WIAA is close to announced possible new options for venues for the boys and girls hockey state tournaments, which have been conducted at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison since 1980.

About the Author

Travis Wilson serves as the General Manager, Football Editor, and contributing writer for other parts of the site. Wilson was selected as part of the Sports 40 Under 40 list by Coach & AD Magazine and the National High School Athletic Coaches Association for 2019. The Wisconsin Football Coaches Association (WFCA) named Travis the 2015 recipient of the Dave McClain Distinguished Service Award. He currently serves on the WFCA Executive Board as the Website and Communications Director and is a member of the Executive Board of the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association. A graduate of Richland Center High School and Mount Mercy College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Travis was a three-sport athlete in high school (football, baseball, basketball) and currently resides in Reedsburg. You can follow him on Twitter at @travisWSN.

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