Big Nine to break apart

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Another week, another twist for the Columbia Basin Big Nine's fate.

The longtime athletic league joining Class 4A and 3A schools in the Tri-Cities, Walla Walla, Sunnyside, Yakima, Moses Lake and Wenatchee is no more.

Richland superintendent Jim Busey, Kennewick super Dave Bond and Pasco super Saundra Hill will meet Friday morning to form a new athletic league for the seven Tri-Cities high schools.

"The seven schools for sure will be a part of that," Busey said told the Tri-City Herald. "We think from previous conversations with Walla Walla that they will be a part of it. And there may be another school district that petitions to join as well."

Walla Walla Public Schools superintendent Mick Miller couldn't be reached this morning, but said last week that Wa-Hi would look to join a Tri-Cities league if one were to form.

Walla Walla athletic director Don Wilkins wasn't surprised by the decision.

"I was pretty sure that's what was going to happen," Wilkins said. "I think it's sad. Taking apart something that's been together for a long time, and it's been a benefit for our athletes, our coaches and our programs, and we're taking that away.

"I think we're going to burn some bridges and destroy some relationships that we need to be there, because in two years this whole thing could chang in terms of classification."

Many have assumed Sunnyside will petition to join the league, as the Class 3A Grizzlies could be wary of playing in a league with only Class 4A teams.

The Tri-City schools have not officially pulled out of the CBBN, but will do so Friday because of disagreements over the by-laws.

"That was clearly a non-negotiable issue," Busey said. "We received an email today from the Yakima superintendent. It basically stated that the schools in the north do not want to change the bylaws at all."

Busey did not elaborate as to what changes the Tri-City schools wanted to make, but it likely surrounds a December vote by the CBBN's then-15 principals that would have broke the league into North and South divisions.

"I'm disappointed," Sunnyside superintendent Rick Cole said. "I thought there might be some level of collaboration between 75 percent super majority and simple majority. They just couldn't resolve whatever their differences were.

"I don't think it was for lack of trying. All nine districts tried real hard to resolve this. The general, unanimous consensus was to figure out how to keep this league together."

December's 8-7 vote, which followed on geographical lines, was later thrown out by the Yakima Valley Interscholastic Activities Association for violating the by-laws which stated that a super majority was needed to make such drastic changes.

After the new league is formed Friday, area athletic directors will meet to build schedules and draft bylaws for the new, unnamed league.

The Tri-Cities schools sought the change in leagues to help ease cuts from the state education budgets, as well as time out of school for students and coaches.

Bond told the Kennewick school board Wednesday that the new league will preserve the rivalries that district residents value most. A more centralized league will also cut transportation costs and cut down on the amount of classroom time coaches and student-athletes have to miss.

While Tri-Cities schools will continue to play each other, long-standing rivalries with the northern schools may come to an end depending on how scheduling shakes out.

The upheaval in the league began in December when Eastmont misreported its numbers to the WIAA. The CBBN's 15 schools believed the league would continue as is, with a seven-team 4A division and an eight-team 3A division.

Once the Eastmont mistake was discovered, though, it forced the Wildcats over the Class 4A numbers threshold. With Pasco also going up to Class 4A, there would've been nine 4A teams and six 3A teams, which would have made scheduling difficult.

Instead, the Tri-Cities schools opted to try and form divisions along geographical lines rather than along classification lines, which eventually tore apart the league.

West Valley, which turned in Class 2A numbers, had initially opted up to Class 3A, but last week decided not to and will join the Class 2A CWAC league.

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