Dayton-Waitsburg Athletic Combine on Hold Until 2018-19
SE1B League and WIAA District 9 refused to approve full DW combine for next year
WAITSBURG – Earlier this month, the Dayton School District approved a full athletic combine with Waitsburg, for both middle and high school. With recent survey results showing approximately 80% of respondents in favor of the combine, it was generally expected that Waitsburg would do the same at their June 14 school board meeting.
That was not the case, though the board was ultimately given little choice in the matter.
WIAA District 9 Director, Bob Kirk, opened the discussion by passing out a letter from District 9 stating that the proposed combine requires approval of both Dayton and Waitsburg school boards, the SE1B League, the EWAC 2B League, District 5, District 9, and the WIAA Executive Director. The letter was clear that the SE1B League and WIAA District 9 do not approve of the full combine for the 2017-18 school year.
Kirk said the SE1B member schools oppose the combine for volleyball, boys and girls basketball, and softball for the 2017-18 school year because most volleyball and basketball schedules have already been completed and SE1B schools would have difficulty filling the games lost by Waitsburg exiting the league this late.
The letter, which included a copy of pertinent WIAA regulations, said the District would approve a full combine for the 2018-19 school year.
“We would like Waitsburg to honor the commitment it made earlier in the year,” Kirk said.
The news was not received warmly by some members of the Waitsburg School Board.
“I don’t see anyone from WIAA sitting on this board, but they can tell us what’s best for our students?” asked Board Chair Ross Hamann. “Looks like the decision is made,” he added.
In spite of the apparent roadblock, the board spent nearly an hour listening to comments from athletes, coaches, parents and administrators about the pros and cons of a full combine.
Parent Brad Sandau begged the board not to approve the combine for the coming year because he felt it would negatively impact his daughter and her teammates.
“That freshman group of girls were not good. But they worked hard and made it to playoffs this year, and they were so proud of that. Now they’re going to be seniors and if we combine, there will undoubtedly be girls that won’t play. Don’t take that away from them. Not this year. Our sports program for girls this year is not in trouble,” Sandau said.
“It is in trouble, we’re not going to have JV programs,” countered Head Football Coach Troy Larsen. “And whenever you don’t have JV programs, you lose games. You don’t get better. Most girls sit on the bench and don’t play, so they can’t get better.
“You’re thinking of your daughter and I understand that. But you need to think about what’s best for the city, the program, and the schools. Without JV programs we’re also taking games from other teams in the league as well,” he added.
Several Dayton athletes attended the meeting. Junior Helm spoke on their behalf, passionately asking the board to approve the combine.
“We don’t have a lot of dedicated athletes and a combine will give us the numbers we need to play. I’m a senior and I really don’t want to play a JV schedule next year. I think that’s the worst that could happen during my high school sports career. Our girl’s teams also want to combine,” he said.
Helm then addressed Sandau saying, “If they’re good, they deserve to play on a varsity team. Having Dayton girls come will only make it better. If they earn it they’ll still have their spot. I feel like everyone in Dayton is pro-combine. We really need it.”
Several Waitsburg athletes were in attendance as well. Brayden Miller said that competing for spots forces Waitsburg to be competitive as a team and spoke about the importance of having both JV and varsity programs.
Parent Sarah Boudrieu asked if Dayton could opt not to run a program, which would allow Waitsburg to invite them to play for Waitsburg, avoiding an actual combine.
Kirk said Dayton’s enrollment would “probably” have to be factored in and could affect Waitsburg’s classification. “It would have to be approved by someone,” he added.
“I coached high school basketball and always wondered what’s magic about 20 games. If we don’t keep the schedule with 1B they’ll have 18 games in basketball. I don’t see that destroying anybody’s program. And I’m not sure they can’t schedule someone else,” said board member Russ Knopp.
Kirk said that the number of games affects a school’s RPI (ranking percentage index) which plays a part in tournament seeding. A team rated six can lose their first playoff game and still be a state champion. A teamed rated 7 will lose and they’re out, he said.
“What I take away from this conversation is that we don’t have enough information. What if we forgot to talk about RPI and made this decision? Just make sure you have all the information to know what you want to do. Simple things, like who’s in charge of bills?” said High School Athletic Director Stephanie Wooderchak.
“It has been my opinion all along that we need to plan this but do it in a time that is not going to upset the apple cart as far as scheduling and the work that the athletic directors and league have done. As difficult as it is to see programs that don’t have enough kids – all of our schools have been through that. I think we ought to pursue the combine for next year and not rush in this year and deal with the consequences of moving too quickly,” said Board member Randy Pearson.
Middle School Athletic Director Lori Bartlow agreed, saying she felt the combine was being rushed way too fast and was worried about hiring coaches, late nights, transportation, numbers of teams, etc. “If we have time to prepare properly I think it will make a huge difference with the emotional state and everything else. And I won’t feel way rushed as middle school athletic director,” she said.
Softball and volleyball coach Angie Potts said she had mixed feelings but ultimately agreed that more time to plan and prepare would be beneficial.
“You have two long-term coaches, so you have assistants and coaches to talk about. I agree with Lori, it’s too rushed. You need to look at the pros and cons with the WP combine, especially what broke it up, and prevent that from happening. Are you going to dump another $25,000 to rebuild a program when the same thing happens with Dayton? I think you need to look at what happened with WP breaking up and build a plan on those scenarios. And I don’t think you can do that in two months before school starts,” Potts said.
“For softball, if we pull out of that 1B schedule, there is no league for those other three schools. They lose their league completely,” she added.
Options such as leaving the league and becoming independent and filing an appeal with District 9 were also discussed, briefly.
Pearson motioned that Waitsburg leave things as they are this year and commit to a full combine, for both middle and high school, for the 2018-19 school year. Knopp was the lone dissenting vote, and the motion was passed.
Dayton and Waitsburg will maintain the previously established combines for middle and high school football and baseball, high school wrestling, and middle school softball for the 2017-18 school year.