ANCHORAGE - Alaska's high school basketball tournaments - for both large and small schools - will be combined into one week-long event beginning in 2006.
The board of directors for the Alaska School Activities Association unanimously approved the format change Monday, saying it would be more convenient and less expensive than running two tournaments.
But the decision will force Southeast schools to rework the Region V tournaments.
As approved, the new state tournament format would feature 64 teams playing 88 games over five days in three Anchorage venues.
"This will be the only place in the nation where all classifications, both boys and girls, play in the same place," said John Andrews, ASAA's director of special events.
Previously, Sullivan Arena - with seating for about 7,000 - hosted the Class 3A-4A state tournament over three days. The Class 1A-2A tournament followed a week later at Service and East Anchorage high schools.
Under the new plan, Class 1A and 2A schools would play first-round games on Tuesday, March 21, 2006, at either the University of Alaska Anchorage's Wells Fargo Sports Complex or Service High. Semifinal games would be played Wednesday and championship games would be Thursday, all at Sullivan Arena. Consolation games for Class 1A and 2A would be played at UAA or Service.
Jim Holien has coached Class 2A Hydaburg to three straight state tournaments - including a state title in 2003. He said the chance to play in Sullivan Arena would provide motivation for his team.
"It's great to play at Service, and it's always a treat to get to state," Holien said. "But to play on the Sullivan floor, it's going to be a tremendous incentive to get up there."
As in years past, all Class 3A and 4A games would be at Sullivan, but they'll begin a day earlier. Two first-round games are scheduled to be played Wednesday followed by two on Thursday. The traditional semifinal and consolation schedule would resume on Friday and Saturday.
Andrews said many logistics need to be worked out before a there's a final schedule.
And logistics need to be addressed in Southeast - starting with the Region V Tournament. Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka/Mount Edgecumbe have been the only hosts in recent years for the combined Class 3A and 4A tournaments. The Region V-Class 2A tournament usually takes place a week later at either Juneau or Ketchikan high schools.
The separate tournaments use their sites to capacity, making a single tournament at one site the same weekend nearly impossible. Region V officials will have to come up with a plan that crowns all region champions in time for the unified state tournament.
There are also concerns about missed school days and added travel costs due to a longer state tourney timeline.
Doug Rhodes, activities director at Craig High School and Region V representative on the ASAA board, said he brought Southeast's mixed feelings to the table in Anchorage.
"The small schools wanted the opportunity to play in the big venue, and in our region we were supportive of the concept," he said. "It was the logistics we had a problem with."
But Rhodes said it was clear at the ASAA meeting that every other region was voting for the plan. With two years to prepare and assurances that Southeast concerns would be heard in creating final state schedules, he gave his support.
Rhodes said ASAA was supportive of measures like giving Southeast Class 3A and 4A teams priority for Thursday first-round game times - the same as the existing schedule - instead of the new Wednesday slots.
That would cut down on any extra days out of school and extra hotel expenses.
Rhodes also noted that ASAA will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2006 - creating a good tie-in for a combined state tourney. And he said bringing small and large schools together would expose teams to new cultures and experiences.
"We'll all get together and figure out how to make it work," Rhodes said. "It's going to be a challenge for Region V. ... But I think the whole thing will be positive for the state."
Juneau Empire sports reporter Andrew Krueger contributed to this story.
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