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OSAA: Basketball, Volleyball state championship tournament consolation games on the chopping block

Bob McBeth remembers the days of the 16-team, weeklong high school state basketball tournament. Not only did he play in one -- when Dallas High reached the 1986 Class 4A boys state tournament at Memorial Coliseum in Portland -- he also coached the Reedsport boys squad to the Class 3A state championship tourney at Oregon's old McArthur Court in Eugene back in 1996 and 1997.

Central boys basketball coach Bob McBeth, left, coaches the Panthers at the 2012 Class 4A state championship game at Oregon State's Gill Coliseum.

Photo by Pete Strong

Central boys basketball coach Bob McBeth, left, coaches the Panthers at the 2012 Class 4A state championship game at Oregon State's Gill Coliseum.

June 25, 2013

Bob McBeth remembers the days of the 16-team, weeklong high school state basketball tournament.

Not only did he play in one -- when Dallas High reached the 1986 Class 4A boys state tournament at Memorial Coliseum in Portland -- he also coached the Reedsport boys squad to the Class 3A state championship tourney at Oregon's old McArthur Court in Eugene back in 1996 and 1997.

The sixth-year Central High head boys basketball coach also realizes that those days are long gone.

And if the Oregon School Activities Association ends up following through with its state championship committee's recent suggestion to eliminate all consolation round games at the now eight-team state tournaments, McBeth and the rest of the state will have to forget all about what used to be.

"There was a level of reward at the end of the season if you went on to the state tournament," McBeth said of the 16-team state tournament system that existed in Oregon for more than 70 years before being reduced to eight teams in 2004.

"Most teams would stay and watch for the whole week. ... Having played in that as a player and seeing it as a coach and seeing how special it was - it was a special thing back then. I don't know now if we're ever going to get back to that or replicate that."

The OSAA, facing challenges to cut its costs, doesn't appear to be headed back down memory lane any time soon.

At its June 3 meeting held in Wilsonville, the OSAA State Championship Committee reached consensus on several issues, the most controversial being the elimination of all third-place and consolation games at the Class 6A, 5A and 4A boys and girls state basketball tournaments, as well as the elimination of all consolation rounds at all state volleyball championship tournaments.

Don't worry, the decisions won't actually be finalized until February of 2014, with the changes enacted for a four-year time block beginning with the 2014-15 school year.

But the OSAA is serious about the possibility of taking the extra contests away.

The bottom line? Hosting consolation games is expensive -- and they're not packing the stands, either.

"We are not drawing people to those consolation games," OSAA Assistant Executive Director Brad Garrett said. "There's cases where we have more staffing than we do spectators -- and when you're playing in the Rose Garden or (The University of Oregon's) Matthew Knight Arena, that is expensive."

Don't be confused, though.

The OSAA, a nonprofit organization, is not trying to save money by renting buildings like Portland's Rose Garden or Oregon State University's Gill Coliseum for less time -- the tournaments would still last just as long.

Consolation games, like this one between Central and Phoenix in the 2011 Class 4A state boys basketball tournament at Gill Coliseum, don

Photo by Pete Strong

Consolation games, like this one between Central and Phoenix in the 2011 Class 4A state boys basketball tournament at Gill Coliseum, don't typically draw heavy attendance.

It's trying to lessen its reimbursement costs.

To stay nonprofit, the OSAA uses a per-diem (per player) reimbursement system that gives money back to the schools that attend state tournaments and competitions. It's based on round-trip mileage and number of days at the event.

For example, if a team travels 500 miles round-trip for a four-day event, the OSAA gives the school back $87 per person. The entire reimbursement formula can be found at www.osaa.org.

That means the longer the teams stay at the state tournament, the more money the OSAA has to dole back from what it actually made on admission revenue or sponsorships.

Basketball and football, not surprisingly, drive the OSAA's net revenue, while most of the other sports, such as volleyball and track and field, actually lose money as activities during their respective seasons.

"You have to use the net revenues from (basketball and football) to support the ones that don't (support themselves)," Garrett said. "For example, we're going to lose $60,000 at the state track meet -- and we had 11,000 people there (on May 25). When you have 254 teams and you're reimbursing for all those kids, those reimbursements eat up any money you made very quickly."

And while eliminating extra games would save on each team's reimbursement costs, it would also save on staffing costs for the buildings with no morning consolation contests to run.

"There are financial implications to this decision and people need to understand that," Garrett said.

Conversely, the committee reached a consensus not to eliminate consolation rounds at the Class 3A, 2A and 1A boys and girls basketball state tournaments.

That's because those tournaments -- in case you've never attended the championships in Baker City, Pendleton or at Marshfield High School in Coos Bay -- are much unlike their big-school counterparts.

"When we send eight teams to Baker, a large portion of those fans buy a session ticket and they watch 22 games," Garrett said. "I ran the Pendleton tournament for 11 years and folks just don't show up for their game, they're there for the whole tournament.

"The mentality in the small schools is different than the big schools when it comes to tournament play."

Those tournaments, aided by volunteer staff and community support, plus the fact that they take place in high schools or convention centers -- rather than Rose Garden-like arenas that charge city tax and user fees -- are also far cheaper to run.

"I know coaches who brag about the great job those communities do on putting on those tournaments," McBeth added. "Those communities make it a big deal. The 4A, 5A, 6A schools, we're kind of left without a community that will embrace a tournament and make it special."

On the volleyball side, it's another cost-cutting move. Eliminating consolation rounds will allow the OSAA to host the state championships at two sites -- with three divisions at each -- instead of three.

Perrydale volleyball coach Brooke Klaudt isn't thrilled with the idea of traveling 300 miles round trip -- the 2A-1A tournament was held at Redmond's Ridgeview High in 2012 -- for possibly one match.

Brooke Klaudt

Brooke Klaudt

"If you're traveling to play one match, that would be tough," Klaudt said. "My girls should be able to get at least two matches in when they go to the state tournament."

Garrett insists, however, this isn't a set decision.

"The reality is we need to look toward the future with the association, in my mind," he said.

"We're not trying to hold onto something that isn't working just to hold on to the past. ... Right now, there's consensus to support (eliminating consolation games), but the committee is anxiously awaiting feedback."

McBeth, who has led Central to four state tournament appearances, was clear on where he stands on the issue.

"I don't think they're proud of the fact that they're altering the championship format, but the only way to fix it is to increase revenue or find donors to fund championship stuff," McBeth said. "I know the bottom line is it's not good for kids, coaches or communities. It's just a devaluing, almost, of the end of the season, which should be the reward of the season.

"It's a tragedy for everyone."

MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD

* The OSAA wants your feedback on how it runs its state championships. To contact the committee with any suggestions regarding changes, send emails to Cindy Simmons at cindys@osaa.org. The next OSAA State Championship Committee meeting will be held Sept. 20 at 9 a.m. at the OSAA office in Wilsonville. It will begin with public testimony.

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