The vote on the proposed multiplier at the WIAA’s meeting on Wednesday may not have brought about any immediate changes, but it did open the door for additional discussion.
By a vote of 355-22, the WIAA passed a motion to send the topic to an ad-hoc committee. It will be the committee’s responsibility to delve deeper into the matter and to report findings at the WIAA’s area meetings at the beginning of September.
As far as Roncalli president John Stelzer is concerned, allowing more time for research was the right move.
“The vote was pretty resounding. I don’t think a lot of people would disagree that there are issues that need to be discussed,” Stelzer said. “Our position has been: we’re affiliated with schools, so we should take a more measured, academic approach to it and have a process. I think that now is going going to take place in the next year.”
Stelzer added that the move allows additional time for emotions to be put on the back burner.
“I think it’s a difference between asking someone an emotional question based upon their school versus looking at, being a part of a larger organization, taking an approach that would be best for the whole. There are so many different questions that are out there still that need to be studied.”
Manitowoc Lutheran athletic director David Uhlhorn, who attended Wednesday’s proceedings in Stevens Point, agreed with Stelzer’s take.
“I guess I was pleased that they didn’t go ahead and vote yes or no on something that I don’t think the general public and the school districts are really informed on,” Uhlhorn said. “The idea of putting this down to a committee will give an opportunity for the individual private and public schools to give their scenario and give their thoughts on it. Then, whatever recommendation comes forward, at least you have some confidence that it was researched a little bit more.”
During the meeting, Uhlhorn picked up another piece of information he plans to consider in the coming weeks.
“One thing that came out clearly from the meeting today that even I wasn’t aware of is: it’s much bigger than private, public conversation. It’s even more of a urban, rural conversation,” Uhlhorn said. “Some of these schools that are in a larger area are even more competitive than schools in a rural community. I think every situation in every town and every community is a little bit different, all the more reason to research this further, rather than making a swift decision about something.”
An underlying concern for some private school officials is that their schools are essentially being forced to play up a division, or two in some sports, simply because of the success of a handful of private schools in football and basketball.
“I think the biggest change that we’d see at Manitowoc Lutheran is in terms of football. We’re right in the middle of Division 6 in football. We’ve had some success in years past and made the playoffs, but we’ve never gotten beyond Level 2,” Uhlhorn said. “If this multiplier would have gone through, we would have qualified for the playoffs but then put in Division 4. I just don’t feel like we would have had a competitive chance there of even winning one game.”
“As far as the other sports go, we all would have been bumped up a division in each of our sports,” Uhlhorn said. “So, now our girls cross country team is being punished for something another school’s boys basketball team did the last couple of years. To me, that just isn’t right.”
There is no denying the success of programs such as St. Mary’s Springs football which has won three state titles in the last five years or Racine St. Catherine’s boys basketball which won five state titles in the mid 2000s or Whitefish Bay Dominican basketball which has won the last three Division 4 titles, but they are the exception, not the rule and Uhlhorn wants to be sure the powers that be understand that.
“I know that there are 77 private schools in the state of Wisconsin and we’re not all winning state titles in everything, every year” Uhlhorn said. “That was one of my concerns: that you have too broad of a stroke, that you’re kind of punishing, in a sense, all 77 private schools when it probably isn’t always the case.”
While Stelzer wasn’t as firm with his assessment of the situation, he is still pleased that schools will have more time to research the impacts of a possible multiplier, as well as voice any concerns that come up along the way.
“I wouldn’t say we’re against the amendment.” Stelzer said. “We were against the amendment being voted for without that process being followed as far as data and discussion and having different representations around the table.”
Uhlhorn stated that additional inquiries will reveal the complex nature of the situation.
“I think that when they do their research, they’re going to find out there’s not going to be one solution that everybody is going to be happy with,” Uhlhorn said. “I think hopefully they can realize is that enrollment is enrollment and we can debate it all we want, but I don’t know how you can make one policy that fits for rural Wisconsin, urban Milwaukee, and then the land in-between.”