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Lee: New state format has arrived, like it or not

Perhaps we’re creatures of habit and therefore we don’t like change.

Ready or not, change happens this weekend when Washington’s new boys and girls basketball state tournament format debuts, culminating in eight-team, three-day tourneys the following week at stops in Spokane, Yakima and Tacoma.

Never has a team been afforded the luxury of losing a first-round game and still coming back and win a state championship. But that’s what could happen with the new format.

It shouldn’t be allowed to happen. I’m all for protecting No. 1 seeds in first-round games, but do it in a regional format, not under the umbrella of a state tournament name.

All of the current state tournament records for each classification can no longer be broken. They should stand for all time. New tournament records will be established this year if the new format continues.

I understand the issues that caused WIAA executive director Mike Colbrese to push the change through. Poor attendance and gate receipts and increasing costs to stage the tournaments were the critical issues.

And I’m not against trimming the tournaments from four days to three days and cutting the fields in half. Most of the states across the nation feature three-day state tourneys. This isn’t Little League – not every team can play and not every player deserves a ribbon for participation.

I’m also supportive of holding the final rounds for all classifications on the same weekend at three different sites. Sure, that means a city like Yakima – which enjoyed the economic boon of hosting state tourneys three straight weekends – suffered the biggest financial loss under the restructuring. Still, the change is a sound financial decision for the WIAA, and attendance should be greatly improved this year. I hope it’s because more people make their way to state – not just the result of more teams at a certain site.

I haven’t talked to a coach yet who has embraced the changes. Who, after all, is going to support having less of an opportunity making the final eight?

I have another peeve: Something must be done about qualifying for the first round of state games. Qualifiers should be decided by the weekend before and not the Monday or Tuesday of the first round. The WIAA should start the season a week earlier to help this happen and end the falls seasons a week earlier. Makes sense to me.

If the WIAA truly wants the state tourneys to be contested over two weekends, then seed the first-round games so the No. 1 seeds don’t play each other and make it single-elimination so we can keep the integrity of the state tourney records. Double-elimination play could kick in the following week.

Whether your team wins or loses this week, whether your team lives to play another week, whether your team wins a state title or brings home a trophy, I want to hear from you after state play is concluded. Let me know how you thought things went. Let me know if you thought it felt and looked like state.

Send me an e-mail at gregl@spokesman.com. My guess is, whether your team wins or loses, you’re not going to like the new format.

And make sure you also send your thoughts on to the WIAA. I hope fans from across the state – the people who dole out the money to travel to state and are the people who truly are the life support of activities for kids – will make their opinions known.

Especially since the WIAA didn’t seek such input when it shoved the changes down the teams’ throats.