A meeting of school superintendents next week in Yakima will determine the fate of the Columbia Basin Big Nine conference.
Ten superintendents, representing the 15 schools in the CBBN, have been invited to attend a meeting scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Yakima School District main office.
Mike Colbrese, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association executive director, has also been invited.
If the course of the CBBN is dissolution, Rick Cole doesn't want it to be for lack of trying to keep the historic conference together.
"The first question we have to answer is do we want to keep the league together?" said Cole, the Sunnyside School District Superintendent.
Cole is convinced that all parties have not had a chance to hear all sides of the issues. When they do, he believes a solution can be found.
"I think everybody, out of respect and support for the history of the league, needs to have a complete dialogue to understand what the issues are," Cole said. "I'm confident it will be resolved this time."
In case the superintendents can't come to an agreement about the future of the CBBN, four superintendents from the Mid-Columbia have already taken steps to plan for a new league.
Richland School District Superintendent Jim Busey, Dave Bond of Kennewick, Saundra Hill of Pasco and Mick Miller of Walla Walla held a conference call with Colbrese on Thursday regarding the possibility of a new league.
"We discussed the option of a North-South division within the (CBBN). If that's not reasonable, then we'll move to (create) a new league," Busey said.
Asked how difficult it would be to create a new league, Busey said it was "very simple."
"You basically just do it," Busey said. "You notify the WIAA and they recognize (the new league). Other schools can then petition to join. There aren't a lot of timelines or a lot of paperwork."
Cole is optimistic that Tuesday's meeting in Yakima can bring a sense of urgency that might preserve the 15-team conference.
"I'm in my 13th year as Sunnyside Superintendent, and this is the third time we've had a major conversation about shifting the conference," Cole said. "Each time we've had a conversation between the district school boards, we've come up with a solution."
In mid-December, CBBN principals voted 8-7 to split the conference into North and South divisions, grouped by region. The South Division would have included Chiawana, Hanford, Kamiakin, Kennewick, Pasco, Richland and Southridge. The North Division was set to include Davis, Eastmont, Eisenhower, Moses Lake, Sunnyside, Wenatchee and West Valley.
That vote, however, didn't follow existing CBBN bylaws, which stated that any vote needed a super-majority of 12 votes to pass. As a result, representatives from Davis, Eisenhower, Sunnyside and West Valley filed an appeal, which was granted Tuesday by the Yakima Valley Interscholastic Activities Association.
South schools argued the alignment would reduce travel costs and student time out of class, while the North schools contend they would be saddled with nearly all the travel costs.
CBBN Athletic Directors held their weekly meeting Wednesday, where they discussed the importance of the upcoming superintendent's meeting and the possible future of the CBBN.
"There were some hard feelings in the meeting Wednesday, but we still realize we have to work together the rest of the year," Kamiakin AD Don Schumacher said. "We're basically on hold. We don't have the final authority. It's in the superintendents' and principals' hands now."