Chalk up another win for the money counters at the WIAA--and another loss for the student-athletes they claim to care so much about. The Association announced this week that Boys Basketball Sectionals will no longer be played at at college sites like the Kolf Sports Center or the Brown County Arena. In a refreshing change, WIAA spokesman Todd Clark openly admitted that the only factor in this decision was that it would allow them to keep more of the money generated by ticket sales--rather than having to rent the gym. So instead of having a unique opportunity to play before big crowds on college-sized courts, teams making it to sectionals now get to play in just another high school gym.
Even though we never had a prayer of making it there when I played at Bay Port, playing at the Brown County Arena was a really big deal. That was where Dick Bennett and the UWGB Phoenix played, there were actual shot clocks and the hoops weren't connected to the ceiling. It was a really neat thing to experience (for teams that actually made it there I mean). If you had told me a regional title would mean another trip to Ashwaubenon High School, it would have been a bit of a disappointment. As a broadcaster, I've done sectional doubleheaders at the Arena and let me tell you having four fan bases in the house at the same time really gets things rocking.
And let's not forget the fans lose out here as well. I've been at a few sectional games at the Kolf featuring Oshkosh teams where it was standing room only--and the Kolf holds about five-thousand people. Only about half of those fans would get in a game at Stevens Point. Kind of makes you wonder how the WIAA expects to make more money if fewer fans are able to buy tickets. I doubt, venue rental was so expensive as to make that trade off a break-even deal.
I understand the WIAA has to be self-sufficient--and that Boys Football and Basketball playoffs are the only moneymakers they have--so profits need to be maximized. And let's not forget the Gannett Newspapers likely cost them thousands with their lawsuit to avoid paying $50 broadcast fees to stream playoff games--so that money has to be made back as well. But at some point, the student-athletes and the fans have to be given some consideration.
So just add this to what is becoming a lengthy list of questionable decisions coming from the WIAA--along with the Valley Football Association (which no one wanted), the idea of everyone making the playoffs in football (which no one wants) and no more taking your shirt off at insde sporting events (OK, only the kids didn't want that one). And you can also add another tick in the loss column for the kids--even though this is supposed to be "all about the children".