Multiplier amendment expected to result in heated debate

Multiplier amendment expected to result in heated debate

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Multiplier amendment expected to result in heated debate

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STEVENS POINT

Whitefish Bay Dominican recently captured its third straight WIAA Division 4 state boys basketball championship.

Wisconsin Lutheran took home the Division 2 state title, while Green Bay N.E.W. Lutheran also played for a state title in Division 5 at the Kohl Center.

Of the 20 teams that competed for state championships in five divisions in girls basketball at the Resch Center, seven came from the private, religious and independent school ranks.

Considering parochial or similar schools comprise 17 percent of the membership, having nearly one-third of the girls basketball teams competing at the state tournament raises red flags for some administrators throughout the state.

Is it a case of those private schools simply having better coaches working with student-athletes?

Or do religious and independent schools have an unfair advantage by recruiting prospective athletes from surrounding communities, with promises of athletic success and perhaps lower tuition payments?

Among the topics scheduled to be discussed, and perhaps in rather acrimonious tones, at the WIAA annual meeting this morning is a petition to establish a 1.65 multiplier for each student at private, religious and independent schools for WIAA tournaments, meaning those schools could move up at least one a division because each student counts as 1.65 as opposed to one.

“Why is 1.65 the magic number?,” asked Stevens Point Area Catholic Schools president Todd Kuckkahn of the multiplier implemented by Illinois. “Aren’t we diminishing the value of one kid over another? Does that mean a student at SPASH is less valuable than one at Pacelli?”

The petition to amend the WIAA constitution by applying a multiplier was brought forth by the Six Rivers Conference in the southwestern part of the state.

In order to add the item to the WIAA agenda today, the conference needed and received the required signatures from 10 percent of the 505 member schools.

“I think if there are concerns about recruitment of student-athletes, then we also need to look at open enrollment,” Kuckkahn said. “People have to be careful about perception. I don’t think this is a one size fits all solution to this multiplier issue. We need to step back and take a breath.”

Kuckkahn raised concerns about why solely focusing on private and independent schools, when a number of the same issues concerning recruitment of student-athletes can be traced to open enrollment.

Wausau Newman athletic director Dale Thoreson feels everyone just needs to slow down.

Thoreson pointed out that if the 1.65 multiplier was enacted, Newman Catholic could very well move from Division 3 to Division 1 school for football, leaving the odds of ever competing for a state championship on the gridiron next to impossible.

“I think there is a better response to the issue than this, and we need to slow down the process and make sure we do this right,” Thoreson said. “We need to study things like foreign exchange students, or open enrollment and other factors when looking at the student body of a public school or private school.

“I think people are focused on certain basketball programs, but this is going to affect other sports, too,” Thoreson said. “(The multiplier amendment) seemed to come out of nowhere, and I think the WIAA was caught a little off guard.”

Andrew Bradley, who serves as the athletic director and football coach at Almond-Bancroft High School, feels the discussion set for today is at the very least a good first step in the process.

He believes smaller schools from rural or small communities are at a competitive disadvantage, and something needs to be done.

“I think this is an issue that definitely needs to be looked at,” Bradley said. “I don’t know if this is the answer or we need a different version of this, but the issue of private schools in bigger cities needs to be addressed.

“I don’t know if it’s really about recruiting as much as where these private schools are located. Pacelli is in an area with 50,000 people, while we’re a community of 300,” he added. “The last 5 or 10 years, people just looked the other way. This gets it off the back burner.”

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