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First sign of spring: Prep games called by snow

Well, this is about as much fun as a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

Spring officially began Monday. I had snow in my yard Tuesday morning and there were flakes flying as I drove to Spokane on Wednesday morning.

Can anyone tell me the last time we had a pleasant spring?

Sure, there’s been a smattering of prep events. Down in Lewiston, where they bypass spring and go straight to summer, there’s been two track meets. They sneaked one in at Coeur d’Alene last weekend.

I’ve figured out why spring coaches coach as long as they do. They figure if kids continue to turn out and brave the winter-like conditions for more than two months, they can, too.

I don’t want to be doom and gloom here, but one extended forecast I saw said we’re going to have above-normal precipitation through April. And that will present a rescheduling nightmare.

• When I arrived at The Spokesman-Review, landing in Coeur d’Alene nearly 28 years ago, it wasn’t long before I noticed the state of Idaho was behind the times in many things, especially in prep sports.

From a competitive standpoint, North Idaho teams have come miles in football and boys and girls basketball, for example. Those teams more than hold their own – and in some cases, play better than – teams in Eastern Washington (read: Greater Spokane League). And they’ve earned a large measure of respect from the Boise-area schools – which, for years, dominated in most sports in the state.

Still, Idaho lags in a couple of areas. Two that come to mind quickly are in basketball.

Idaho doesn’t have a shot clock for boys or girls. And just one region – North Idaho – uses three-man officiating crews.

It’s time for Idaho to come out of the dark ages.

Some fans and coaches would argue that adding a shot clock would take away a strategic element. I adamantly disagree. Certainly, coaches who feel their teams are at a competitive dis- advantage against an opponent – and can’t match player for player in terms of talent – believe the best chance their team has of winning is taking the air out of the ball and shortening games.

Washington teams don’t like playing at North Idaho schools particularly because there’s no shot clock.

Idaho High School Activities Association executive director John Billetz calls himself old school when it comes to the shot clock. He thinks the game is fine without it. He would like to see Idaho go to three-man officiating crews, though – at the very least for state tournaments.

District I (North Idaho) went to three-man crews six years ago. Last season, all games involving 5A and 4A boys and girls and some 3A teams had three-man mechanics.

“I think it’s embarrassing that we don’t have it across the state, especially at the state tournaments,” District I commissioner John Posnick said. “Idaho and Oregon are the only states that don’t use it at state tournaments.”

Posnick got North Idaho schools to buy into three-man crews by making it as affordable as possible. A single referee earns $55 a game.

So Posnick charges schools for 2 1/2 referees – meaning schools pay each of three referees $46.80.

“Coaches in North Idaho have embraced it,” Posnick said. “It makes for better games.”

Coaches initially feared having a third referee would mean there would be more fouls called and make for longer games.

“That’s a bad myth,” Posnick said. “There aren’t more fouls called. Actually, where it helps is there are fewer bad calls or missed calls.”