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WIAA's Rural/Urban plan receives less than favorable reaction from coaches directly involved

12/11/2017, 2:30pm CST
By Mark Miller

Ken Roeder wants to make something known throughout the state of Wisconsin.

He is not out recruiting student-athletes for the Kohler High School boys' basketball program. 

And while Kohler has some kids in its school system via the Open Enrollment program from nearby Sheboygan, none are involved in the boys' hoop program. 

So forgive Roeder if he's less than thrilled with the current proposal to move Kohler and 29 other schools across the state up a division for the WIAA basketball playoffs through the "Rural/Urban" plan the WIAA Board of Control is currently considering.

Kohler has an enrollment of 225 students and currently competes in Division 4, but the Blue Bombers would move up to Division 3 next season if the "Rural/Urban" plan passes.

"Our basketball program is not benefiting from being a suburban school district," said Roeder, now in his 10th year as the Blue Bombers' head coach. "I am not out recruiting kids. I have no players at Kohler via school choice in our basketball program. 

"It seems like we are taking some things that appear to be unfair for some school districts and making it unfair for other schools. If we move up to Division 3, we could be looking at a first-round match-up against a school like Brown Deer. That is a hard one for our guys to stomach."

Kohler and 17 other schools would move from Division 4 to Division 3 while another 12 schools would transition from Division 5 to Division 4 under the plan, which could pass as early as next month at the WIAA Board of Control meeting and be put in place for the 2018-19 school year.

The "Rural/Urban" proposal uses the existing five-division structure for boys' and girls' basketball tournament play to create a base division for all teams.

Under an early December revised proposal, Division 1 and Division 2 would not change. The bottom enrollment cutoff for Division 1 would remain 1,200, while the bottom enrollment cutoff for Division 2 would remain 600. No team would move into or out of Division 1 or Division 2.

The lowest 128 teams in enrollment would be used to create the "base" Division 5, with all remaining schools under 600 enrollment placed equally into Division 3 and Division 4 for baselines.

All teams in the base versions of D3, D4, and D5 would then be given a designation of "City," "Suburban," "Town," or "Rural."

The "City/Suburban" and "Rural/Town" designations are based on official U.S. Census information. Information from the US Government on what those classifications mean can be found by clicking here.

There are a number of categories that municipalities can fall into, but the main four that the WIAA will be using are "City", "Suburban", "Town", and "Rural".

All teams, both public and private, would be reviewed based on their designation. Any teams under 93 in enrollment would not be adjusted.

Teams that fall into "base" Division 5 that receive a designation of "City" or "Suburban" and have more than 93 students would move up one division to Division 4. Team that fall into "base" Division 4 (prior to adjustment up for D5 teams) that receive a designation of "City" or "Suburban" would move up one Division to Division 3.

"The number of 93 enrolled was determined by taking the largest school in Division 5 and dividing it in half -- 182/2 = 93," said Deb Hauser, an associate director of the WIAA in charge of basketball. "That maintains the two-to-one ratio that the five division plan was based on. Any school smaller than 93 was not moved even if they had a city/suburban designation.

"The intent of the plan is to address the concerns identified in the membership survey of 2016. There was a sense that schools located in the rural areas did not have access to the population base those located in a suburban/city setting had. The designations were from the US Census Bureau -- providing an unbiased categorization of communities based on their geographic locations.

"The Board of Control is hoping to find a solution to try for a two-year period that may ease the unrest in the membership over the rural/urban inequities that are perceived by the WIAA member schools." 

Five straight Division 4 boys' state championships for perennial powerhouse Whitefish Bay Dominican from 2012-2016 and last March's D4 crown won by Milwaukee Destiny created some of the unrest among small, rural districts. 

Both Dominican and Destiny are private schools located in urban areas and as such are able to attract student-athletes from throughout metro Milwaukee.

Other private schools that have won recent boys' basketball titles that would move up under the proposal include Aquinas, McDonell Central, Sheboygan Lutheran and Young Coggs Prep.  

Twenty-five of the 30 schools that would move up a division in the plan are private schools. The plan is for basketball only.

Howards Grove, like Kohler a public school located near Sheboygan that would move up if the plan passes from Division 4 to Division 3, has run into Dominican (twice) and Destiny (once) in sectional final games the past three seasons, losing all three times. 

Howards Grove coach Wade Georgeff is among those who is "absolutely opposed to" the "Rural/Urban" proposal.

"We are a school of 270 students, which would be one of the smallest in Division 3 under the plan," Georgeff said. "Teams like Xavier, Martin Luther and Waupun are almost double the enrollment we have. 

"Losing to Dominican and Destiny in the sectional finals the past three seasons was tough enough. With this proposal, we'd be in Division 3 along with the other teams mentioned above. So for me, there isn't a positive way to spin this proposal."

Bill Uelmen, who has won 575 games in 40 years of coaching high school teams in Wisconsin, including 35 at private-school power Eau Claire Regis, would watch his school move up from Division 4 to Division 3 under the plan. 

Uelmen, who has directed teams at Regis that qualified for the old Wisconsin Independent Schools Athletic Association (WISAA) State Tournament as well as the WIAA State Tournament, knew when the organizations merged in 2000 that the small, private schools would experience success.

"Those teams at the WISAA State Tournament were very, very good," Uelmen said. "It's just that many did not know about it because it did not get the media attention of the WIAA State Tournament. I know what it's like to get crushed by Dominican at the state tournament because that happened to us at Regis in the late 1970s. 

"If this plan passes, we would be the second-smallest school in the revamped Division 3. That would make it more difficult. I think most years we could compete, but it would be more challenging to get to state. I can see where some of this is coming from, but I would prefer a success formula to move schools up rather than where the school is located. It doesn't make any sense for a school like Immanuel Lutheran in Eau Claire with its 98 students to play in Division 4."

Immanuel Lutheran has a 10-10 post-season record over the past 10 seasons while Regis has won 28 of 38 playoff games and qualified for the WIAA State Tournament three times during the same time period.

However, for every Regis and Aquinas and Destiny that has experienced lots of playoff success the past decade, other programs affected by the proposal have struggled to be competitive.

The co-op program at University Lake/Trinity in Hartland has lost nine of its last 10 playoff games, while the co-op program at Abundant Life/St. Ambrose in Madison has lost 10 of its last 12 playoff outings. 

"For us and for some others this plan is terrible," Roeder said. "I think it will cause a lot of animosity within the WIAA if it passes. It could potentially solve a few things for some schools, but for others it would be a disaster."

Listed below are significant on-court statistical results for the 30 schools that would move up a division should the "Rural/Urban" plan pass at the Board of Control meeting in January:

Moving From Division 4 to Division 3 ...

Aquinas (La Crosse)
10-year WIAA playoff record: 37-7
State Tournament Appearances since 2008: 3 (Titles in 2013, 2011, 2008)
Sectional Appearances since 2008: 6
Overall Record since 2008: 193-59 (67 percent)
Type of School: Private

Cristo Rey Jesuit (Milwaukee)
2017-18 is first year of varsity competition for new school
Type of School: Private

Destiny (Milwaukee)
10-year WIAA playoff record: 20-9
State Tournament Appearances since 2008: 1 (D4 title in 2017)
Sectional Appearances since 2008: 2
Overall Record since 2008: 150-70 (68 percent)
Type of School: Private

Hope Christian (Milwaukee)
10-year WIAA playoff record: 3-10
State Tournament Appearances since 2008: 0
Sectional Appearances since 2008: 0
Overall Record since 2008: 93-128 (43 percent)
Type of School: Private

Howards Grove
10-year WIAA playoff record: 20-10
State Tournament Appearances since 2008: 0
Sectional Appearances since 2008: 4
Overall Record since 2008: 170-75 (69 percent)
Type of School: Public

Kenosha Christian Life
10-year WIAA playoff record: 2-10
State Tournament Appearances since 2008: 0
Sectional Appearances since 2008: 0
Overall Record since 2008: 86-142 (38 percent)
Type of School: Private

Kohler
10-year WIAA playoff record: 7-10
State Tournament Appearances since 2008: 0
Sectional Appearances since 2008: 0
Overall Record since 2008: 88-144 (38 percent)
Type of School: Public

Lake Country Lutheran (Hartland)
10-year WIAA playoff record: 8-10
State Tournament Appearances since 2008: 0
Sectional Appearances since 2008: 1
Overall Record since 2008: 116-117 (50 percent)
Type of School: Private

Luther (Onalaska)
10-year WIAA playoff record: 12-10
State Tournament Appearances since 2008: 0
Sectional Appearances since 2008: 2
Overall Record since 2008: 115-120 (49 percent)
Type of School: Private

Milwaukee Academy of Science
10-year WIAA playoff record: 13-8
State Tournament Appearances since 2008: 0
Sectional Appearances since 2008: 3
Overall Record since 2008: 129-86 (60 percent)
Type of School: Private

Milwaukee Collegiate Academy
10-year WIAA playoff record: 2-6 (joined WIAA in 2011-12)
State Tournament Appearances since 2008: 0
Sectional Appearances since 2008: 0
Overall Record since 2008: 46-75 (38 percent)
Type of School: Public

Milwaukee Juneau
10-year WIAA playoff record: 1-3 (re-joined WIAA in 2014-15)
State Tournament Appearances since 2008: 0
Sectional Appearances since 2008: 0
Overall Record since 2008: 11-62 (15 percent)
Type of School: Public

Milwaukee Lifelong Learning
10-year WIAA playoff record: 0-0 (joined WIAA in 2017-18)
State Tournament Appearances since 2008: 0
Sectional Appearances since 2008: 0
Type of School: Public

Racine Lutheran
10-year WIAA playoff record: 22-10
State Tournament Appearances since 2008: 1
Sectional Appearances since 2008: 3
Overall Record since 2008: 164-84 (66 percent)
Type of School: Private

Regis (Eau Claire)
10-year WIAA playoff record: 28-10
State Tournament Appearances since 2008: 3
Sectional Appearances since 2008: 6
Overall Record since 2008: 193-59 (77 percent)
Type of School: Private

Saint Mary Catholic (Neenah-Menasha)
10-year WIAA playoff record: 15-10
State Tournament Appearances since 2008: 1
Sectional Appearances since 2008: 1
Overall Record since 2008: 83-156 (35 percent)
Type of School: Private

The Prairie School (Racine)
10-year WIAA playoff record: 10-10
State Tournament Appearances since 2008: 1
Sectional Appearances since 2008: 0
Overall Record since 2008: 114-121 (49 percent)
Type of School: Private

Winnebago Lutheran (Fond du Lac)
10-year WIAA playoff record: 13-10
State Tournament Appearances since 2008: 0
Sectional Appearances since 2008: 1
Overall Record since 2008: 130-108 (55 percent)
Type of School: Private

Moving From Division 5 to Division 4 ...

Abundant Life/St. Ambrose (Madison)
10-year WIAA playoff record: 2-10
State Tournament Appearances since 2008: 0
Sectional Appearances since 2008: 0
Overall Record since 2008: 58-171 (25 percent)
Type of School: Private

Green Bay NEW Lutheran
10-year WIAA playoff record: 36-10
State Tournament Appearances since 2008: 6
Sectional Appearances since 2008: 6
Overall Record since 2008: 171-90 (66 percent)
Type of School: Private

Heritage Christian (New Berlin)
10-year WIAA playoff record: 6-10
State Tournament Appearances since 2008: 0
Sectional Appearances since 2008: 0
Overall Record since 2008: 69-160 (30 percent)
Type of School: Private

Immanuel Lutheran (Eau Claire)
10-year WIAA playoff record: 10-10
State Tournament Appearances since 2008: 0
Sectional Appearances since 2008: 1
Overall Record since 2008: 116-104 (53 percent)
Type of School: Private

Lourdes Academy (Oshkosh)
10-year WIAA playoff record: 16-10
State Tournament Appearances since 2008: 1
Sectional Appearances since 2008: 3
Overall Record since 2008: 175-66 (73 percent)
Type of School: Private

McDonell Central (Chippewa Falls)
10-year WIAA playoff record: 34-9
State Tournament Appearances since 2008: 3 (D5 title in 2016)
Sectional Appearances since 2008: 6
Overall Record since 2008: 175-84 (68 percent)
Type of School: Private

Newman Catholic (Wausau)
10-year WIAA playoff record: 14-10
State Tournament Appearances since 2008: 0
Sectional Appearances since 2008: 3
Overall Record since 2008: 120-119 (50 percent)
Type of School: Private

Salam School (Milwaukee)
10-year WIAA playoff record: 0-6 (joined WIAA in 2010-11, did not field a team in 2014-15)
State Tournament Appearances since 2008: 0
Sectional Appearances since 2008: 0
Overall Record since 2008: 62-53 (54 percent)
Type of School: Private

Sheboygan Area Lutheran
10-year WIAA playoff record: 23-9
State Tournament Appearances since 2008: 2
Sectional Appearances since 2008: 4 (D5 title in 2012)
Overall Record since 2008: 157-90 (64 percent)
Type of School: Private

Sheboygan County Christian
10-year WIAA playoff record: 18-10
State Tournament Appearances since 2008: 0
Sectional Appearances since 2008: 4
Overall Record since 2008: 142-101 (58 percent)
Type of School: Private

University Lake School/Trinity Academy (Hartland)
10-year WIAA playoff record: 1-9 (did not play in 2007-08)
State Tournament Appearances since 2008: 0
Sectional Appearances since 2008: 0
Overall Record since 2008: 66-149 (31 percent)
Type of School: Private

Young Coggs Prep (Milwaukee)
10-year WIAA playoff record: 18-7 (joined WIAA in 2009-10)
State Tournament Appearances since 2008: 1 (D5 title in 2015)
Sectional Appearances since 2008: 1
Overall Record since 2008: 143-50 (74 percent)
Type of School: Private

Combined WIAA playoff record of above schools since 2008: 391-253 (61 percent)

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