Tacoma Baptist is a team no one seems to want to play. The private school from the city has limited its enrollment in order to return to a B classification for sports for at least the next two years.
After nearly four months of often rancorous wrangling, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association and the Northwest and Southwest Districts decided TB will play in the newly formed Pacific League for football. The addition of the Crusaders forced the CenPac League to be dissolved. Pacific teams will be Naselle, Valley, South Bend, Raymond, North Beach, and Tacoma Baptist. A Central League of Adna, Toutle Lake, Morton, Mossyrock, Cathlamet, and Vancouver Christian was also formed when the old CenPac reluctantly accepted TB.
And why all the fuss over Tacoma Baptist moving south and west? Other than being the only team from Pierce County in the league, the Crusaders have been a perennial football powerhouse in the 1A classification and did not make many friends when they were in the B ranks.
Assistant Naselle football coach, Jeff Eaton, says, "When they (TB) were in our league, they beat Naselle several times by 40 or 50 points and they did not play many subs, that's for sure. The first year, we (Naselle) beat them and we had one other competitive game that we lost. Otherwise they gave us a pasting every time. I'm afraid there will only be a couple of teams who can compete with Tacoma Baptist year in and year out."
Eaton, who was varsity coach at Naselle for many years, was happy there will be a Pacific Football League again. "The coaches in our league all look out for each other. If a team is down, coaches won't leave their best players in to run up the score. They'll use kids who everyone can compete with." That common-sense approach cuts down on the possibility of injury, also.
Under the agreement hammered out by the two district secretaries and the WIAA in order for TB to make the state playoffs they must finish in the top three of the Pacific League. They then have to play a "pig-tail" contest with either Darrington or Orcas Island to enter the state football tournament. TB officials originally rejected the proposal, according to South Bend coach and athletic director, Tom Sanchez, but eventually agreed to the plan when it was apparent an impasse was occurring.
The private Tacoma school's application to join the CenPac in December was rejected, and a similar application was rebuffed by the B/1A Northwest League soon after. The WIAA then stepped in and gave the two districts two weeks to come up with a solution.
While Sanchez is relieved that the dispute has been resolved, he is less than thrilled with the outcome. He noted that Tacoma Baptist's arrival could cost the better Pacific teams a league title, deprive a middle-level squad a playoff berth, and create a competitive imbalance for lower-level teams, similar to what Eaton was referring to.
Putting TB in the Pacific League "does nothing for anyone and that was what our argument was all along" Sanchez said.
Eaton added, "I can't understand how a team that isn't even our district can be put in our league."
One solution to the entire issue of private schools vs. public schools competitive imbalance would to be to have separate state tournaments. The girls class B state basketball tournament, for example, has nine of the 16 teams coming from private schools and only four teams are listed as being from a single town. In the movie "Hoosiers," the tiny town of Hickory, Ind., won the state basketball championship over a huge private school from upstate.
That was 1954.
No other Indiana school the size of Hickory has duplicated the feat since. When these issues crop up every year, hopefully the WIAA will keep that bit of history in mind.
Heimbigner is the Chinook Observer's sports writer.