Head of WIAA describes “electric” atmosphere at title game sites
The executive director of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association said the new setup for state championship football made a strong debut.
“I would say it was an electric atmosphere for high school football,” Mick Hoffman said of the three state championship sites that were used Saturday: Mount Tahoma High School, Sparks Stadium in Puyallup, and Harry Lang Stadium in Lakewood.
“Full stands. Fans were into it. An intimate setting,’’ Hoffman said. “We didn’t have overflow like some communities were panicked about. For a kid to play in front of a full stadium, what an awesome experience.”
Camas beat Bothell in the Class 4A title game 35-14 at Mount Tahoma High School. Papermaker fans filled the visiting, covered grandstand an hour before kickoff. Some chose to stand the whole game, above the seating area. The auxiliary seating bleachers, uncovered, were used by many but not to full capacity.
Change can be scary in all walks of life. The state championship football games have been played indoors in this state since 1977, first at the Kingdome and then beginning in 1995, the Tacoma Dome. (The Tacoma Dome also held semifinal games prior to 1995.)
But after seating renovations at the Tacoma Dome last year affected sightlines for football fans, the facility was deemed no longer viable for the sport.
The WIAA has had ongoing discussions with the Seattle Seahawks and the University of Washington, Hoffman said, but no agreement could be struck in time for this season. Instead, the WIAA went with three championship sites in the same region, to host two games each.
Hoffman talked with many football coaches the day after Championship Saturday.
“We had coaches who won and lost in those games say it was a great environment,” Hoffman said.
Discussions will continue at the bigger facilities, Hoffman said, so the WIAA can present options to coaches and athletic directors. The Seahawks or Huskies, naturally, would be more expensive.
Hoffman estimated the association saved at least $60,000 by taking the title games out of the Tacoma Dome. As of Tuesday morning, he did not have the final attendance numbers from the three sites Saturday. He did say last year’s attendance at the Tacoma Dome — less than 14,000 for the six games — was a disappointing figure. Considering the costs associated with renting the dome, the WIAA did not need 14,000 this year to have a strong weekend.
Still, attendance does matter.
“This event can’t just be a break-even event,” Hoffman said. “This event funds a number of other activities. Football and basketball are the primary revenue centers. They pay for golf, tennis, and everything else we do not make any money.”
That does not mean the championship games will not be moved to a large facility. If there is a deal to be made at a large facility that makes financial sense, that will be an option for athletic directors, Hoffman said.
Going forward with no dome, weather will always be a factor for any championship game. So then it might come down to choosing between a packed environment at a high school stadium or a destination such as Husky Stadium but with very little buzz from the stands.
“Playing in front of full stadiums instead of 5,000 in an 80,000-seat stadium is a totally different experience,” Hoffman said.
He noted that in his talks with coaches Sunday, there seems to be a split. Some loved the packed houses at this year’s title games; others would gravitate to rewarding the players with a game played at an NFL or or Pac-12 stadium.
The three sites were also relatively close to one another this year. Hoffman said the idea was to allow anyone to watch a noon game at one site and go to another site for the 4 p.m. game. The WIAA did not track fans who might have done just that, but through anecdotal evidence, Hoffman did not believe the number was high. That is significant because it could mean moving the three sites to different parts of the state if the WIAA continues with using three high school sites.
Again, it is all about offering options. This was a big change to championship weekend for what is still called the Gridiron Classic. Hoffman said there will be improvements — specifically noting that there have to be playclocks at every location — but there are a number of things to consider before the WIAA adopts a 2020-and-beyond plan for football championship games.
TV talk: Many folks in Southwest Washington complained that Root Sports did not televise the Class 4A championship game like in previous years. The changes to the championship venues also changed the broadcast.
In the past, the 3A game was played on Friday night at the Tacoma Dome, with the 4A game on Saturday.
Now, with the games played on the same day, but at different facilities, TV had to make a choice. This choice also had to be made long before anyone knew which teams would be in the finals.
(By the way, my guess is Root Sports predicted that Eastside Catholic and/or O’Dea would be in the 3A title game. Turns out, both power programs made it to the finals. That was hyped to be the game of the year in Washington, and then it turned into a great game, too.)
Root Sports did televise two games, just like it has in recent years Instead of the 4A game, it also had the 2A title game, played right after the 3A game in Puyallup.
“How cool was it for them to be on TV?” Hoffman asked, referring to Tumwater and Steilacoom. “They haven’t been on TV for years.”
One Clark County Today reader asked if the WIAA could still put the 3A game on a Friday and the 4A game on a Saturday, so the biggest classifications could still be televised. Hoffman said that would be an option. However, any state championship game, with or without TV, requires longer preparation time for the facility. To do so on a Friday, a school day, at a high school campus could run into some issues. In the past, with the Tacoma Dome, there was no conflict with a school day.
Behind the scenes with stats and the media:
Officially, Jackson Clemmer caught a 38-yard touchdown pass from Blake Asciutto in the state championship game. But he didn’t.
Officially, Eli Sivers did not catch a pass in the state title game. But he did.
Officially, Jacques Badolato-Birdsell had 207 yards rushing Saturday. A couple of us media folks had him for more.
For any of you who have read my work for the past two decades, you know I’m a stickler for football stats. When I’m off a yard or two, I punch myself in the head, then find where the mistake was, and usually I can correct it.
I am not yet ready to say I am right about Badolato-Birdsell’s rushing yards, but I guarantee you I am correct about the touchdown catch by Clemmer and the non-catch that should have been a catch for Sivers.
Also, this is not meant to criticize the official stat-keepers. Those who use computers, well, one input mistake can cause the totals to go awry in a hurry. And football teams snap the ball so quickly now, it can be difficult to adjust.
If you read my game story, I noted it was a 28-yard touchdown pass. I also noted in the boxscore that Sivers did have a catch. I also went with my numbers for Badolato-Birdsell. When I’m on a deadline, I go with my numbers, because, well, as you know, I’m kind of obsessed with this stuff. Not perfect, but I trust my numbers.
So let’s get to the Sivers and Clemmer numbers.
Camas had the ball on the Bothell 26-yard line. Asciutto threw a pass to Sivers, who got the ball to the 13-yard line. A flag was thrown on the 16-yard line. Holding against Camas.
Well, in high school statistics, the receiver gets credit for a catch and the yards to the flag, if the flag is downfield. So Sivers gets a reception for 10 yards to the 16-yard line, then the 10-yard penalty brought the ball back to the 26-yard line. (Incidentally, Asciutto gets credit for a completion, an attempt, and 10 yards, too.)
On the next play, Camas lost two yards to the 28-yard line.
The next play, Asciutto found Clemmer on an incredible 28-yard touchdown pass to give Camas a 28-14 lead.
So why does the WIAA have it as a 38-yard touchdown pass? It’s got to be my theory of the one input mistake into the computer. (And I get to the bottom of this in a bit.)
Trust me. I’ve seen the video. The ball is snapped at the 28-yard line!
Honestly, the touchdown distance matters little to me. Matters little to the Papermakers. However, because the computer thought the initial penalty nullified the play, that meant Sivers did not get credit for a catch in the championship game. Eli, please bookmark this article so you can tell your grandchildren that yes, you really did catch a pass in the 2019 state championship game. Right now, the WIAA stats say otherwise.
Now, as far as Badolato-Birdsell, the Seattle Times and I had him for 217 yards. But you know me … time to go to HUDL to find out if I messed something up. I’ll be right back …
OK, I’m back.
As I say to my wife … It’s a burden, not a gift, to be right all the time. (I’m just kidding!)
But in this case, I’m right.
Badolato-Birdsell with 34 carries for 217 yards.
And you know what did in the WIAA? That darn computer. Go old school, I tell you. Pen and paper. Or, you are extra whimpy, use a pencil.
Seriously, in that whole penalty downfield thing that started with the Sivers-non catch? The WIAA computer ruled it a “non-play” but gave Camas a 1-yard penalty back to the 27-yard line. Then it listed Badolato-Birdsell as a loss of 11 to the 38? Again, an input error. Tough to catch, and too late to catch once play resumes.
Trust me, Badolato-Birdsell did not lose 11 yards on a play Saturday. Trust me.
(Oh, his second touchdown run was 47 yards, not 48, but being a yard off is no big deal.)
Anyway, all the numbers that mattered added up to a perfect season for the Camas Papermakers.