Taholah wins appeals to WIAA over postseason ban, league

RENTON — Taholah got its chance in front of the WIAA Executive Board on Monday to appeal sanctions against its athletic program and the dissolution of the former Coastal 1B League.

To use a basketball term, the Chitwhins delivered a slam dunk.

Late Monday afternoon, the WIAA board dismissed the one calendar-year postseason ban on the Chitwhins’ athletic program and supported other actions that the Taholah School District sought during the school’s one-hour presentation at the WIAA offices in Renton.

Along with the dismissed ban, the board ruled all six of the former Coastal 1B League schools are now independents, but the winter schedules set for the league’s 2012-13 season must be honored. Taholah, which didn’t ask for the re-formation of the league, was affected by cancelled games by other former league schools. If those cancelled games are not played, they would be counted as forfeits against the opposing school.

With all six schools — Taholah, Lake Quinault, Wishkah, North River, Mary M. Knight and Oakville — now independent, the WIAA staff was asked by the board to form the District IV 1B boys and girls basketball tournaments at a neutral site. All six independent schools will have access to the postseason, but it is unknown what format will be used.

“We got what we asked for,” Clifford Foster, Jr., Taholah’s legal representative at the meeting, said. “We thought it was basic. The issues were straightforward and we’re glad the WIAA saw it our way.”

WIAA Executive Director Mike Colbrese said the board didn’t believe there was enough evidence to support the postseason ban. He noted the board directed the WIAA staff to “get together with the schools to develop a strategy to improve the relationships between the schools in the 1B (classification) and to include any other 1B school that need to be a part of the discussion.”

“I think the board understood both sides of the issues and the passions brought to the table,” Colbrese said. “The board felt that the step to disband the league should have been preceded on an intermediate level that wasn’t as drastic.”

It is unknown at this time whether games with Taholah and the other five former league schools will be made up. Colbrese said the timeline to determine the postseason tournaments is “as soon as possible.”

“We’re moving on this right away,” he said. “My staff is looking at all options on what they’ll do.”

Foster, who was joined by Taholah superintendent Lyn Roberts and interim athletic director Jerry Walther, along with Taholah School Board president Bill Adams and community member Carl Jackson, laid out the appeal presentation to the board.

The appeal noted the former league did not follow WIAA due process rules, overstepped its authority to remedy the issues the league’s athletic directors had with Taholah and he characterized the dissolution of the league as a “disguised penalty” against the Chitwhins.

Foster said the league never presented factual, documented cases against Taholah for the school to investigate and respond to, just vague concerns and incidents brought up at league meetings.

The WIAA fact-finding report asked for by District IV officials and commissioned by the board in September on the eligibility of two Taholah track athletes during the 2012 track season was used as an example of factual evidence and due process.

In the case for banning Taholah’s athletic program from the postseason, no fact-finding report like the one in the Taholah track case was asked for, no investigator was summoned to look into events and no hearing was scheduled to hear both sides of the story, Foster said.

Foster contended that an underlining racial discrimination against Taholah buffered the league’s actions.

“It is a strong allegation and one that parents, students and the school district is strongly willing to back up,” he said.

District IV administrator Rich Frazer told the board the district and other schools have had spectator and sportsmanship issues with Taholah in the past, most notably in 2008 when the Chitwhins were briefly handed a “no home game” ban.

Procedures were put into place to help remedy communication problems between all of the small schools and to bring up issues quickly. The ban was later rescinded once the process was established and remedies were implemented.

“Most issues with leagues and the WIAA get resolved in a collaborative manner,” Foster said. “With the extent of the dialogue (in November and December), it surprised me that everyone wasn’t working together in that manner. We were able to put things together in 2008 and I was hopeful that would happen again. So, this time, we had to go to the WIAA to get the relief we believe we were entitled to.

“It seemed to me by the time the issues were brought forward, (Taholah wasn’t) in a position to address those concerns and we had to go to a third party,” Foster said. “The idea in 2008 was to get everyone playing and to put into place where if anyone had issues with any other schools, it would be addressed immediately. Unfortunately, we didn’t stick to the commitment that was brought forward in 2008.”

Calls and messages to Frazer on Monday night were not returned.

Rob Burns is a Daily World sports writer. He can be reached at (360) 537-3926 or via email at rburns@thedailyworld.com