Wednesday's WIAA Annual Meeting in Stevens Point could result in the most significant change for high school sports in Wisconsin since private schools from WISAA joined the WIAA in 2000.
Among five Constitutional Amendments on the voting agenda for the WIAA membership is a Competitive Balance plan that features two parts, one that elevates teams that have a high amount of success for postseason play, and another that allows teams to move down a division if they struggle. If passed, this competitive balance plan would be implemented beginning in the 2024-25 school year.
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.
The Notre Dame girls basketball team, winners of three straight D2 titles, would be subject to the proposed Tournament Performance Factor and moved up to D1
Fast forward to today, with continued unrest regarding competitive balance, and last year's creation of a new Competitive Balance Ad Hoc Committee.
As previously outlined, the Tournament Performance Factor that was proposed by the Competitive Balance Ad Hoc Committee 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.
Note: Track & Field & Swim & Dive will continue to use only enrollment.
Points will be awarded based upon the finish of the team in the tournament series:
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.
There would 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:
This does mean that if teams move up as a result of the Tournament Performance Factor, other teams would be moved down to balance out brackets. The next smallest team would be moved down, with the exception outlined below.
From the WIAA proposal: "A team cannot be moved down a division due to another team’s promotion if the aforementioned team has earned any tournament performance factor points in that division during the previous three years. The next smallest school without tournament performance factor points in that division during the previous three years will be moved down. If a team is moved down a division, the next biggest school will move up if it is necessary to fulfill the tournament procedures and schedule for that sport."
If tournament performance factor points total over the previous three years falls below the six points in all divisions, promoted teams will move down a division, unless the school enrollment places them in the higher division, per tournament regulations for that sport.
No application of the proposed Tournament Performance Factor to past seasons to further gauge its impact was provided by the WIAA's Competitive Balance Ad Hoc Committee, but we at WisSports.net did do the math and analyze just which teams would have been impacted previously. You can find that full analysis of the Tournament Performance Factor's impact here.
The other piece of the two-part Competitive Balance proposal would allow schools to submit a request to the WIAA classification committee indicating the classification (division) in which the school wishes to compete in each sport. Because of the timing of when football playoffs and divisional placements are determined, football teams would not be able to request to move down.
This ability of 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 committee would consider are the same as above:
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
It remains to be seen just how many schools would submit requests to move down for their teams, and is one of the significant unknowns of the proposal. Will 100 boys basketball teams ask to move down? 5? 10? We wouldn't know until this would be passed and the request period opened, but it would undoubtedly be a significant development for the WIAA.
The WIAA Annual Meeting will be held Wednesday, April 26th at the Holiday Inn Hotel & Convention Center in Stevens Point, beginning at 9 am. The meeting will be streamed by the NFHS Network here. You can also follow me @travisWSN on Twitter for live updates throughout the meeting.
Travis Wilson serves as the WisSports.net 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.
For the latest and most up to date football news and recruiting information, follow Travis on Twitter @travisWSN. Email story ideas, recruiting info, etc. to Travis at travis(at)wissports.net.