Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day. Or don’t. We’re pretty good, moisture wise, for a while. Regional tournaments? You can go away, too. And don’t come back.
I’ve written about this before and feel like I always come back to it as regional tournaments roll around, especially in the spring.
Weather could put a damper on both the state track and field meet and state soccer tournaments this weekend. It’s going to be cold, and it looks like rain is a guarantee. It might even snow down in Casper, where the state’s best runners will be digging their spikes into the track.
I get it. You can plan a pretty picnic, but you can’t predict the weather.
Spring in Wyoming isn’t really a thing. It’s sort of like Kevin Malone’s first lunch and second lunch. We have first winter and second winter.
Back to my disdain for regional tournaments. The Wyoming High School Activities Association should do away with these for a variety of reasons, but doing so might also combat the weather struggles.
First, a look at this year’s state soccer tournament.
Sheridan High School won’t have a team playing in the tournament, one in which it will host. That’s a bummer for different reasons. But the SHS boys finished fourth in their conference — the always brutal 4A East, which has produced the last four state champions. They beat Kelly Walsh, the West’s 2-seed.
These teams enter the regional tournament knowing they must win to secure a spot at the state tournament. But giving a team like Sheridan — which knocked off the East’s second and third seed this season — one shot to make it doesn’t seem fair. Does the regular season even matter at that point?
Regional tournaments also give four teams automatic bids to the state tournament. Now you have eight teams competing for four spots.
My solution is to make the regular season the driving force. Keep the conferences — these teams already play each other twice in the short regular season; why make them play a third time? Give each conference regular-season winner a bye in the state tournament — one from the West and one from the East.
Then, take the remaining top four teams from each conference and divide them up via record. That gives you 10 teams, two with byes. It leaves the bottom team from each conference out, which is fine because those teams now had 10 games to get their acts together rather than a shot to win one miraculous game and earn an automatic bid.
Side note: We could also go full Premier League and relegate the bottom two teams to 3A and bring up the top two teams from 3A to fill their spots the following year. Relegation is cold blooded and the ultimate punishment for losing a ton. Sorry, not sorry.
Eliminating the regional tournament also allows for an extra week to play with when it comes to weather. If the state tournament was last week, the weather would have been perfect. Regional track times were pretty low.
Even if the weather had been crappy, it would be easier for the WHSAA to postpone the events and not interfere with graduations or summer plans. Use regional week as the new state week, and use state week as a buffer zone for any necessary adjustments. With Wyoming weather, giving yourself some leeway can get you pretty far.
This probably won’t happen, because regional tournaments add revenue to host schools and cities, and it gives teams and athletes one final last-ditch effort to sneak into the state tournament or meet.
But all of these teams have weeks upon weeks to sneak into the state events outright. At some point there has to be a cutoff, and regional tournaments are about as exciting as Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.
Let’s ditch ‘em.