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`EVERYBODY GOES' TO 5A, 4A TOURNEYS

Q: Guess who's playing in next year's 5A and 4A state high school basketball tournaments?

A: Everybody.In surprisingly swift action Monday, the Utah High School Activities Association's executive committee voted to alter the current system (16-team tournaments) in favor of an "everybody goes" format. The change, approved by 5A and 4A principals, is effective next season - despite the fact that coaches and administrators wavered on the issue at a meeting last week.

"We had to make a decision. That's why we had to have a special meeting," said UHSAA executive director Evan Excell, who noted that schedules needed to be finalized and venues booked. "I think this is the best scenario we could reach for high school basketball in this state. I really feel like this is the best way to go."

Under the new plan, top teams in each classification will receive first-round byes with games slated for school sites until the field (in 5A and 4A boys and girls) are reduced to eight teams. Those reaching the quarterfinals will then square off at a college venue (such as the Huntsman Center or Salt Lake Community College). Thus, both classifications can have their last three rounds the same week at the same site (The boys tournaments will likely precede the girls' competitions by one week).

While the new format allows every team in the state a postseason game (the 3A ranks will likely follow the 5A/4A plan, while 2A and 1A schools have region tournaments), the downside is fewer student-athletes will get to play at the college arenas.

"In this proposal, we've eliminated 16 teams and their communities from the experience," said Davis High principal Michael Duckworth. "That's where my concern is in that situation."

However, the new format does offer a trade-off says Excell.

"I think that the light at the end of the tunnel is a nice thing for a coach and his team," he said in regards to expanding the initial postseason field.

"I think it's a good change," said Judge Memorial coach Jim Yerkovich. "It's a good way to make (state) a much bigger event."