One week from today the WIAA will officially release the final school counts and opt-ups that will determine which schools play in what classifications. So far it looks like 16 schools have opted up to the 4A level which will push down schools into 3A. There still could be additional opt-ups but the one thing for sure the leagues are going to look a lot different with the potential of one Super Conference.
There are plenty of rumors and rumblings that have been circulating but the one with seemingly the most legs is the future of the Narrows League. ESN has talked with several sources that believe both the 3A and 4A Narrows Leagues may collapse or certainly look much different. There are still several factors being discussed with the likely landing spot for many or most of the current Narrows League members ending up in the already large SPSL. The South Puget Sound League currently has 4A, 3A and 2A leagues with a total of 33 schools. 17 4A schools with 3 divisions 5 in the Northeast and Northwest Divisions and 7 in the South. There are 8 teams in each of the SPSL 3A and 2A leagues.
The first big move comes from the 3 Auburn schools that have been in the 3A league. All 3 Auburn schools have opted up to 4A pushing those numbers to 20 while depleting the 3A down to 5. Meantime, over in the Narrows League there are 15 teams with 7 in the 4A league and 8 in the 3A. The big change for the Narrows from the preliminary numbers is Gig Harbor will drop to 3A and they appear to be looking to join the SPSL 3A where their sister school Peninsula is a member. Couple that with the Auburn schools migrating to 4A the SPSL 3A has more than enough room to accommodate Gig Harbor.
Additionally, Timberline is now the smallest 4A school and one more opt up looks like it would push the Blazers down to 3A. Well it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to connect the dots here as there are 3 North Thurston school district schools, North Thurston a 3A Narrows League team, Timberline and River Ridge which is a 2A SPSL team. The Hawks have flourished in the SPSL 2A and since there is no Narrows 2A is it hard to believe with a big opening in the SPSL 3A that if Timberline drops down to 3A that they and North Thurston wouldn’t want to join the SPSL and have all 3 of their schools in the same league although different classifications?
This alone doesn’t appear to doom the Narrows League but one other issue seems to be a big concern with several members. The Tacoma schools are a problem for the other Narrows League members because of their general lack of turnout for sports. The Tacoma schools struggle to fill JV teams let alone C-teams or Freshman teams. This creates issues with schools with those teams in trying to find games and competitors for their non-varsity squads.
The SPSL is in a power position regardless they already have 33 teams and likely to add several more, would they consider taking in the entire Narrows League? That is the question or as we have heard rumblings they are not interested in taking in those schools that struggle to field more than varsity teams.
There is another far fetched option for those 4A and 3A schools in the South Sound including the North Thurston schools, Yelm, Olympia, Capital and Shelton and that is a return to District 4 with a re-union of sorts of the old Black Hills league but with a mixed classification or combining with the 4A and 3A Greater St. Helens Leagues. This seems unlikely mostly because of the distance with most of the GSHL 4A and 3A schools in the Vancouver area.
There are several other interesting outcomes with many leagues with the release of the official classification next Thursday. The Evco 2A league that has been operating with 4 teams appear ready to welcome back Aberdeen and add Rochester to get to 6 teams with potentially Eatonville jumping in to the Evco 2A. But with so many schools opting up could it create a much larger domino effect through all the classifications down to the 1B’s?
The scrambling will likely continue through the next 7 days trying to lock down their positions and leagues. This will also be the first cycle of the 4-year classification cycle. So it is vital for some schools to know where they are to make plans. No one wants to get caught in a league with too many or too few schools. Too many is easier to work with by dividing into conferences but too few you run into what the Evco 2A and GSHL 3A has been dealing with for the past 2 seasons trying to find enough opponents to fill an extremely large number of non-league games while having many seasons come down to only a few league games to make or break your season.
By the end of all the maneuvering we could see the end of the Narrows League and the emergence of the SPSL Super Conference with as many as 48 schools over 3 classifications or a break-up of the Narrows to several different leagues and even Districts to either a smaller maybe even combined classification Narrows League to a Narrows League with little change.
It will be an interesting final week in determining the leagues and classifications for the next 4 years.