WIAA, school officials discuss Coupeville's athletic affiliation

Representatives from the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association and the Coupeville school district administration met with concerned parents Monday, Dec. 19, at Coupeville High School to discuss the school's participation in the Cascade Conference.

The officials assured the parents that their concerns have been heard and work is under way to equal the playing field for Coupeville athletes.

Coupeville is a member of the eight-team Cascade Conference. Six of the schools are 2A with enrollments ranging from Cedarcrest with 687 students to Sultan with 520. Coupeville (251 students) and King's (344) are 1A.

It has been difficult for Coupeville to consistently compete with schools twice its size, particularly in football where the number of participants is a critical part of success.

This fall half of Coupeville's 35 football players were injured, forcing the cancellation of its final game. With its small roster, Coupeville is forced to play freshmen and sophomores against older, more physically mature players.

Regardless of how the current problem is solved, Coupeville Athletic Director Lori Stolee said in an interview last Friday, Dec. 16, that "in no way" will Coupeville play the same football schedule against bigger schools next fall.

In the past Coupeville has been competitive at times in most sports, but low participation by current upperclassmen and a dearth of quality athletes in that  group have magnified the problem.

Coupeville competes in the Cascade Conference primarily for geographical reasons.

Brian Smith and John Miller from the WIAA and Jim Piccolo of District 1 (the state athletic district Coupeville competes in) said the first step of correcting the problem lies with the Cascade Conference.

Miller said, "The commonality is that each league takes care of its own. The league should do everything in its power to solve the problem before it goes to a different level."

Stolee and Piccolo both said the conference and District 1 appear to be open to helping Coupeville.

Because of the concerns of Coupeville, the next league meeting has been moved from Jan.27 to Jan. 5 to discuss the problem and expedite a solution.

Stolee said Coupeville has several options.

The best would be for the area 1A schools to form their own league. This is unlikely. Meridian (435 students), Nooksack Valley (374) and Lynden Christian (261) are members of the 13-team 1A/2A/3A Northwest Conference and are happy where they are. Blaine (480) and Mount Baker (498) are also members of the league and will drop from 2A to 1A next fall.

Coupeville could petition the Northwest Conference to move to that league, but the league would rather not add Coupeville because of the travel costs.

However, Coupeville may be able to align with those schools in a football-only situation.

The Cascade Conference may allow Coupeville to play only the smaller schools within the conference or allow Coupeville to stay in the league but play as an independent in football.

If something can't be worked out with the Cascade Conference and Northwest Conference, Coupeville could go independent in all sports, but that is a "scheduling nightmare," according to Stolee.

South Whidbey (469), a member of Coupeville's Cascade Conference, will drop to 1A next year, and the league has a request from 1A Cedar Park Christian to join the league. That in itself will provide Coupeville with smaller schools to compete against, but even those schools are much larger.

Piccolo said, "You have choices. Let the administration and the league do their work first and see how this works out."

Miller said he expects the state will make changes in the future in the way the classifications are drawn up to eliminate the wide range of enrollments within one classification.

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