The extra qualifier process has recently reached the finish line with a rejection from the Advisory Committee on January 28th and the Board of Control on January 29th. I wanted to highlight the process of this proposal from start to finish below as transparency is important to me. Hopefully, some coaches find it helpful.
This process started about 4 years ago and the extra qualifier was an idea to have 5 runners within the top 25 runners in the field. If a team could do that, they earn an extra qualifier position at state. I didn’t know if this would work, so I set out to do the research and looked up every sectional for all divisions and genders and got the data. That work can be found here: (https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1WDm7nzk0LjiC6vbK_1y5MXmO7ns1hhKGsR51TV-wPR4/edit?usp=sharing) Word was getting out and Matt Polzin asked me to speak to the CC clinic about it. Time was shortened on the initial pitch, I got some feedback, some good, some bad, and I got back to work. It was evident that this model wouldn’t work for D1 because they have 10 sectionals and D2/D3 have 8.
That is when the idea of a percentage of the field came along. I then set out to see what that number would be. I again looked up every sectional from present time all the way back to 2010 for all divisions and genders to see how the models would turn out. Calculating different versions, seeing what was viable. Making different spreadsheets and sharing my work with coaches. I continued to look at the concerns of coaches and address them as they came along. Kent Miehe researched if it were possible to measure the strength of a sectional so he presented his work with this: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1xgWKnlpLX0Dbyeda7wrBV7mboiwkKBBaISCi9obRtHI/edit?usp=sharing
The above information took place over 2 years of time and working on the data, having conversations, talking at clinics, etc. This process was long, detailed in nature and a very necessary step. Fast forward….
As Bryon Graun announced at the CC clinic on January 10th, I would be traveling to the WIAA offices to present the proposal to the Sports Advisory Committee (https://www.wiaawi.org/About-WIAA/Committees/Sports-Advisory-Committee). Matt Polzin and I went up and presented on Wednesday, January 15th. Matt came with me as the WCCCA past-president to answer questions that would be more in his wheelhouse as he oversaw most of the proposal in its time of growth. Also in the room were WIAA executives such as Dave Anderson, Wade Labecki, Kate Peterson Abiad, Stephanie Hauser, etc. As I sat down, the AD next to me said he was excited to hear more because what he was hearing in the Madison area was that this could help alleviate the grind that the Madison area has for CC sectionals.
I gave the presentation (https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1zVkuDbzHF0XOt6zxCGhGpYm417HGmQOPK7GLZkTGwYs/edit?usp=sharing) and things went well. It was well received and I got great questions from the group. We were in the room for a total of 45 minutes. The biggest critics were Wade Labecki as he was concerned about “displacing runners” and geographical representation. It boiled down to his concern that a runner who would normally finish 30th could finish 50th (we had to educate him) or a 100th place runner in the state race could finish 104th now and that would affect their desire to run CC any more. Finishing further back would create less desire to run CC, etc etc. We tried to dispel this thought with little avail. Even other AD’s in the room jumped in to help. Dave Anderson then spoke about his concern for cost. The WIAA loses $120,000 a year in CC for the post season tournament for travel and other costs, so what would this do to the budget?
Discussion ended. Voting began. It passed unanimously 14-0. That was a thrilling moment. It’s important to note the AD’s that are represented here poll the AD’s in their district on the topics they are going to be voting on. So they can get a read on how their area feels about it.
My excitement was short-lived. 24 hours later the Executive Committee met (these are the WIAA employees like Dave, Wade, Kate, etc). I didn’t know the timeline of their meeting but I got an email from Kate a day later and they said they voted it down. Their concerns were:
Estimated cost of reimbursements to member schools for teams and individuals CURRENTLY traveling to State CC is $230,000
a) How will the additional athletes be paid for?
b) Two of the last 3 years, there would have been 8 additional qualifying teams. 8 x 7 = 56 additional athletes + coaches. (I had a rebuttal for this)
c) WIAA had an operations deficit last year for the first time in 10+ years. Is it fiscally responsible to agree to additional runners in the very next calendar year?
This could skew geographical representation. (I had a rebuttal for this, too)
a) Can you provide a graph or some type of information that would tell us WHERE the extra qualifiers would have come from in the past 10 years? (which district). Would be beneficial to know if the extra qualifiers would heavily skew the number of athletes that are coming from a particular district. (They were making sure that it didn’t have teams from districts 2, 2, 2, 2, 4, 4, 4, 4 - as an example)
Clearly my work was not done. So I set out to educate them on how this isn’t as expensive as they think and how this does have geographical representation. This is also where an amendment came into play. Cost is minimal if we didn’t move down the line and add more individuals to the field. This idea was kicked around by a few higher ups and people on the final two voting rounds. I did cost analysis based on this amendment. If this amendment is the one that was voted on, and passed, CC coaches are still getting everything they have now prior to the proposal, with the addition of the 3rd team if they meet the qualifying criteria. After all, this is an extra team proposal and has been since its inception.
I spoke with Kate on the phone and we exchanged a few emails prior to the Tuesday, January 28th meeting which is the Advisory Council https://www.wiaawi.org/About-WIAA/Committees/Advisory-Council Discussion on this proposal lasted 20 minutes with the group. One member (they are all superintendents) said that anyone could come up with a mathematical equation to get more teams to state in their sport, and the same person also said that it’s not like any of the teams making it in under this proposal would have won state. In addition, a D1 coach contacted a member of the committee and urged them to vote no because the field is too big for D1. They voted it down 0-16.
Here are some of my key takeaways from this process.
1) The WIAA is concerned about adding more cost to a sport that has a net loss of $115,00-$120,000. That’s a fair thing to be concerned about and perhaps something that we didn’t know before and we now know. We won’t know yet what the effects of raising gate fees of $2 a head did this year at the state meet until this fiscal year is over in June.
This is the first time in 10 years that they are in the red for operating WIAA state tournaments overall (I believe I am correct in saying that?).
2) Kate fought ferociously for the proposal on behalf of the association which is worth mentioning. I heard this from the member that was on the advisory committee. He said she knew her stuff and fought hard. That is reassuring, no matter what side of the fence you are on. That shows that if our association supports something and it moves through the levels, she will fight for it.
3) There has been a long standing question: “WILL THE WIAA ALLOW MORE RUNNERS INTO THE STATE MEET?” Here’s the answer from my point of view.
a) Will the CC Coaches advisory? Yes
b) Will the Sports Advisory Committee? Yes
c) Will the Executive Committee? Maybe (If they aren’t in the red so much, and the support from the coaches association is very high from a voting perspective)
d) Will the Advisory Council? No, not right now.
e) Will the Board of Control? No, not right now.
f) We need to be careful about word usage...it’s not the WIAA that “won’t allow more runners into the state meet”, it is the various levels prior that we need to convince that it is the right thing for our sport to allow. As you read earlier, there was a D1 coach that contacted a committee member on the Advisory Council (totally okay to do) and voiced their opinion. Perhaps the other 79% that voted to try this proposal should have done more to say that they think the extra 5-10 runners in the field would be just fine.
g) We often use the umbrella term “WIAA” when really it is so much more than Kate, Dave, Wade, etc making choices for our sport. In fact, it is all the levels prior that are deciding for us.
4) I feel strongly that my proposal was accepted within our association because it showed how it works across all divisions and both genders. If coaches want to see their ideas come to life, they need to take the time to show how it works for everyone. They can start with their division or gender and get proof of concept in their own eyes, however, it is in my opinion that they need to get all divisions and genders calculated/aggregated/tabulated/assessed before presenting to the masses. When presenting an idea that leaves out a gender, part of the state or divisions it leaves that group with more questions than answers. Again, my opinion.
5) Despite the loss, there are still wins here. CC is in a great light right now because of the unification of our vote and how this proposal went through the process. CC has not been through the levels in quite some time and although voted down in the end, people are talking about cross country. It has been dormant for many years Not anymore.
6) Your work is never done. Trust me on that.
7) So what’s next? I’m not sure. I’ve already had encouragement to try again as the easiest thing to do for the Advisory Committee is to see something like this once and never again. If they see something again, with their concerns addressed, they soften and will vote yes on topics. There also needs to be support from the association to pursue this again.
If there are any questions I’ll do my best to address them. Feel free to ask them below. I hope that someone finds this helpful. It was a long process that was incredibly rewarding and I am glad I went through it. Although this post is very long, it is such a small portion of it all. I am eager to see what comes next for our great sport.