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Would WIAA be wise to institute “multiplier” in sports tournaments?

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Greg Peck
April 17, 2014

As a former high school basketball player, I have more than a passing interest in the WIAA's debate over whether to enact a “multiplier.” The multiplier would push many private schools into divisions for schools with larger enrollments in postseason tournaments such as basketball, football and baseball. This debate was in the news Wednesday, overshadowed by that big announcement about the sale of pro basketball's Milwaukee Bucks.

I was apprehensive years ago when the private schools agreed to join public schools in the WIAA tournaments rather than continuing to stage their own. After all, I feared that private schools, which seem to attract better athletes, might dominate the tournaments.

Has that come to pass? Well, if I'm counting right, five of the boys teams and five of the girls teams making the separate 20-team state basketball tournament fields last month were private schools. Two of the five champions for both boys and girls were private schools. I don't have the totals of public vs. private schools in the sport statewide, but the private-school accomplishments seem disproportionately large.

As Eric Schmoldt reported in today's Gazette, a multiplier might push the private Madison Edgewood up one notch into a bracket with bigger schools. The private schools argue that a multiplier would be unfair in this era of public school open enrollment. Athletes, in theory, are free to attend any public school they want to. If the WIAA enacts a multiplier, supporters of private schools might sue.

Open enrollment doesn't mean public schools are free to recruit athletes. I read Wednesday that Milwaukee Public Schools investigated recruiting allegations against Milwaukee Languages (I didn't even know such a school existed) boys basketball coach John Allen and found enough evidence to fire him. That's according to a story by Mark Stewart in Wednesday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Stewart also reported that the WIAA has investigated 78 cases of recruiting by coaches or undue influence by people outside the athletic programs since January 2000. Eleven accusations were confirmed, and eight of those involved public schools.

Schmoldt reports that WIAA members agreed Wednesday to appoint a committee to study a multiplier plan similar to one used in Illinois. The committee will present a recommendation to the WIAA's executive staff and board of control by Dec. 1. Members could vote on any final recommendation at next year's annual meeting, and any change would take effect in the 2015-16 school year.

This should be interesting.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.



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