The Columbia Basin Big Nine as we know it could be in jeopardy if schools from the Mid-Columbia and Yakima Valley cannot agree on a realignment of the conference's 15 schools.
The Yakima Valley Interscholastic Activities Association granted an appeal Tuesday by four Yakima Valley high schools to negate a December vote that would have split the CBBN into regionally based North and South divisions.
That split was approved Dec. 15 in an 8-7 vote by CBBN principals. The South division would have included Chiawana, Hanford, Kamiakin, Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, Southridge and Walla Walla. The North division was set to include Davis, Eastmont, Eisenhower, Moses Lake, Sunnyside, Wenatchee and West Valley.
The South schools voted for the split to curb travel costs, foster local rivalries and minimize students' time away from class.
Today, four school superintendents from the Mid-Columbia will hold a conference call with Mike Colbrese, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association executive director, regarding the possible creation of a new league.
Richland School District Superintendent Jim Busey, Dave Bond of Kennewick, Saundra Hill of Pasco and Mick Miller of Walla Walla will begin planning for two possible futures.
In one scenario, the CBBN will remain intact with two divisions. The other involves the CBBN dissolving into two different leagues.
Either way, seven Tri-City teams -- plus Walla Walla -- likely will be grouped together for league play beginning this fall.
"We always want to stress first that our first preference is to maintain the league with (all) the teams in it. I'd be shocked if that's where it ends up," said Hanford Principal Ken Gosney, who oversaw the December vote. "There's got to be North-South divisions. In a time of heavy cuts in education around the state, we can save a lot of travel costs and maintenance on buses. Those costs add up quick.
"It also makes sense for (Tri-Cities) fans. They know that if they're playing a Tri-Cities school, it's going to mean something."
Busey said hope remains that school administrators can find middle ground on a North-South split.
"We actually have a tentative meeting next Tuesday. Everybody is going to get together and talk through this," Busey said. "If (the North-South split) is turned down, I feel the only option is to look at an entirely new league."
The WIAA executive board will meet Jan. 22-23 to certify classifications, meaning the CBBN must be ready with a plan at that time.
Busey emphasized that, even if the CBBN does dissolve, teams still will be able to face each other in nonleague or crossover games.
"Division play will be easier as far as scheduling and crossovers," Busey said. "If we separate the leagues, that creates more complexity."
* Jack Millikin; 509-582-1406; firstname.lastname@example.org