Say hello to the CWAC, Grizzly sports fans.
The Sunnyside School Board last night sided with high school officials in recommending that the 3A Grizzly teams compete in the 2A CWAC starting with the 2008-09 school year.
The move comes as Sunnyside and West Valley are the only 3A teams remaining from the Columbia Basin League after all the Tri-City schools opted up to the 4A level.
The only other options pointed out by high school Principal Brian Hart and Athletic Director Bill Daley were to move up and play with the other 4A schools, either as a 3A or 4A program.
Daley confirmed that the CBL's 8-6 vote to move up to just a 4A league was split, with 3A schools wishing to remain as they were and the 4A schools voting to opt up.
The school board, too, was split on the issue for awhile last night, as board members Miguel Puente and Rocky Simmons lobbied for Sunnyside to join the 4A ranks, citing concerns over lack of contests for sub-varsity programs and playing down to a level below Sunnyside's 3A status.
Board member Steve Carpenter countered that schools in the CWAC are closer geographically to Sunnyside, meaning students would have to be out of class less time for game travel. The CWAC also features historic rivals for Sunnyside, such as Grandview and Prosser.
After Daley pledged that 90 to 95 percent of sub-varsity teams would have the full slate of contests in the CWAC, the board agreed unanimously to follow the school's recommendation.
There are district meetings planned in January with the WIAA, and there may still be changes ahead with where some schools end up in classification level.
But Daley told board members last night that he needed firm direction from them so that Sunnyside can be included in sports scheduling that will take place next month.
Per a CWAC vote in 2005, Sunnyside can play in the league as a 3A school. That leaves the question of State playoffs for Sunnyside. It's a question that Daley said doesn't have an answer until a final number of 3A schools in eastern Washington is set.
Sunnyside is also considering a rarely used clause in WIAA rules that would allow the Grizzlies to actually compete as a 2A school. The rule says teams can petition to play in a smaller classification if they are isolated geographically from other similar-sized schools.
Daley noted the whole discussion is unfortunate because the CBL's original intent was to give 3A and 4A teams flexibility and prevent the precise scenario that has unfolded just two years after it was formed.
Sunnyside, he said, needs a long term answer. "We can't keep coming back to the table every two years."