For reasons ranging from finances, to time out of class, the 7 Tri Cities Schools decided in early March that transportation cost were high while budgets for extracurricular activities was low. Also missed class time contributed to an uneasy feeling among school administrators who held both the decision making power and the purse strings.
What that means for the fall is the Big 9 now consists of 6 schools: Davis and Eisenhower in Yakima, Wenatchee, Eastmont, Moses Lake and Sunnyside. The newly minted Mid Columbia Conference includes Richland, Pasco, Hanford, Chiawana, Southridge, Kamiakin, Kennewick, and Walla-Walla. One could argue that no big rivalries were eliminated save for Davis/Richland in Basketball. What does change is the amount of long bus rides and stops at Miners for out-of-town Tri Cities fans and players.
The other interesting wrinkle is the number of in conference games the reconfigured Big 9 will play for Football. Each team will play the other teams twice, that's right, twice each season. Will that be good or bad? Depends on who you ask.
One major drawback may be exposure. Several players, fans, and coaches remarked that the Tri Cities being the major population center is a great arena to showcase ones individual and team talent. Remove the Tri City market and a spread out Eastern Washington landscape gets lonley awfully quick. With the big Tri CIty stage no longer there, players hope that the media attention does not wane too.
The original Big Nine started as the Columbia Basin Big Eight in 1965 with: Richland, Pasco, Kennewick, Moses Lake, Walla Walla, Davis, Eisenhower and Wenatchee. In 1971 the addition of Kamiakin made it the Big Nine. In 1995 Six schools were added but the name remained the same.
Tri Cities fans appear to be the winners as traditional rivalries are back in effect and dream matchups that did not occur in the previous alignment (like Chiawana vs.Kamiakin) will now be played out on the field. Other long-time rival games like Kennewick vs. Richland should also be extremely competetive, with plenty of fan interest tp boot. Tri Cities bragging rights will now be earned on the field of play instead of Facebook and Forums.
The biggest change might occur in Baseball, not Football, where a tough 3A league just got a whole lot tougher now that Richland joins the Kennewick Schools. Imagine being Walla Walla who's baseball schedule reads like a who's who of the states baseball best. They could potentially have this run of league games: Richland, Southridge, Kamiakin, Hanford, and Kennewick. That should be fun for fans, not so much so for coaches.
Is the end result of the split better or worse? Does the money saved really make that big of a difference? What happens in 2 years when the WIAA enrollments numbers cause another re-shuffle? Time will tell.