Janesville56.3°

State basketball might move to GB

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JOHN N. BARRY
January 19, 2012

The Field House and Kohl Center in Madison have been good to Tom Klawitter and Steve Collins.


Klawitter has led Janesville Parker’s girls basketball program to 12 WIAA state tournament appearances, second only to Cuba City’s 13. The Vikings won Division 1 state titles in 1993 and 2000 at the Field House and in 2001 at the Kohl Center.


Collins is the boys head coach at Madison Memorial, the dominant program in the state in the last 10 years. The Spartans have made eight straight state appearances at the Kohl Center and won Division 1 titles in 2005, 2009 and 2011.


Unless there is a dramatic change over the next week or so, March Madness in Madison will be history after the WIAA’s contract with the University of Wisconsin runs out in 2013. It could happen as early as next year. The WIAA is close to reaching a deal with UW-Green Bay to play future boys and girls state basketball tournaments, possibly as early as 2013, at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon.


Although the WIAA’s contract with the UW runs through 2013, there are conflicts with both the boys and girls tournament dates next year at the Kohl Center due to UW men’s hockey. With UW’s hockey program beginning Big Ten Conference play in the 2013-14 season, the availability of the Kohl Center for future state tournaments is even more clouded. The UW offered to keep the dates the same for next year’s girls state tournament but move games to the Field House, while the boys state tournament would be moved to March 12-14—Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday—but remain at the Kohl Center.


The WIAA is not excited about either proposal.


“As far as I’m concerned, the Field House is fine,” Klawitter said. “You really can’t beat the atmosphere or the tradition that comes with playing at the Field House. I would prefer to play there.


“And if the Kohl Center becomes available, then use it. But I haven’t talked to anybody that wants either the boys or the girls state tournaments to move to Green Bay.”


The WIAA took control of the boys state tournament in 1920, and it has been played in Madison every year since, except for 1936, when it was in Wisconsin Rapids.


Rather than work to resolve the issue and keep the tradition going in Madison, which 90 percent of state coaches want based on a poll by wissports.net, neither the UW nor the WIAA seems willing to concede.

Collins said it would be a travesty to move the boys and girls state tournaments out of Madison.


“Let’s face the facts and be realistic about this whole thing,” Collins said. “Kids grow up wanting to play (the state tournament) at the Kohl Center, not the Resch Center. It would be a huge mistake if this thing got moved.


“Shorten our season, even if it means being done at the end of February, but don’t take it away from the kids. The WIAA has done enough of that already with eliminating four teams from the Division 1 state tournament and getting rid of the shootaround at state.”


If the WIAA continues to tinker with the format, Collins believes participation will shrink down the road.


“I’ve already seen it with soccer and swim and a few other sports, where kids are strictly playing club ball,” Collins said. “I’d hate to see that happen in our sport, but the way things are going and with the changes that are likely to happen, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it did.


“The state tournament is not only meant for Madison because of the fact that so many participants live within an hour of the city, but it remains a great recruiting tool for the UW. I don’t understand why they wouldn’t do everything they could to keep it in Madison.”


Despite using the Field House until 1998 for boys and 2001 for girls, the WIAA does not want to return to “the old barn.”


WIAA Associate Director Deb Hauser said her organization has not ruled out the Field House, but the UW said in a statement that the WIAA said no to using the facility.


“We’ve not made any type of official determination as of yet,” Hauser said. “We are still weighing all the options and looking to discuss the matter further when our board of control meets next week.”


The UW, especially Athletic Director Barry Alvarez, is not without blame. Alvarez and Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney were the principles behind the formation of Big Ten Conference hockey. That means the Kohl Center’s availability is paramount to the Badger program’s success, especially if Bucky hosts the Big Ten playoffs, which happen to fall on the same weekends as the boys and girls state tournaments. The Big Ten Network owns exclusive rights to Big Ten hockey programming.


The problem with the entire setup is that if Wisconsin isn’t good enough to host a Big Ten playoff, the Kohl Center could sit idle for two weeks.


So who are the losers in all of this, besides the city of Madison and a tradition that dates back nearly 100 years? Once again, it’s the student-athletes who are caught in the middle of a tug-of-war between the UW and the WIAA.



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