Al­bert­sons Sta­dium to host 5A, 4A fi­nals

The Idaho Statesman (Sunday) - - SPORTS - BY MICHAEL LYCKLAMA mly­ck­lama@ida­hostates­man.com

Idaho’s 5A and 4A high school foot­ball cham­pi­onship games will re­turn to Boise State’s Al­bert­sons Sta­dium on Satur­day, a move that caught fans, coaches and ad­min­is­tra­tors through­out the state off guard.

In­for­ma­tion on the Idaho High School Ac­tiv­i­ties As­so­ci­a­tion web­site showed those games head­ing to Po­catello’s Holt Arena based on the results from Fri­day’s semi­fi­nal round. But the state as­so­ci­a­tion in­stead an­nounced late Fri­day night that Boise State’s iconic blue turf will host both the 5A and 4A cham­pi­onships.

Rocky Moun­tain (11-0) bat­tles High­land (10-1) for the 5A ti­tle at 10 a.m. Satur­day. Bishop Kelly (10-1) and Hill­crest (11-1) fol­low in the 4A cham­pi­onship at 1 p.m.

The 3A to 1A cham­pi­onship games were not avail­able at press time Satur­day.

HOW DID THIS HAP­PEN?

The con­fu­sion stemmed from du­el­ing in­for­ma­tion on the IHSAA’S web­site. Idaho typ­i­cally ro­tates its cham­pi­onship foot­ball games based on his­tor­i­cal matchups. For ex­am­ple, the last time a Boise­based 5A team faced an Eastern Idaho op­po­nent in the state cham­pi­onship, Al­bert­sons Sta­dium hosted the matchup. The same goes for 4A.

By that logic, and the Milk Bowl ro­ta­tion dis­trib­uted by the IHSAA, Po­catello’s Holt Arena would host this year’s ti­tle games. But an over­looked por­tion of the state rule­book and state tour­na­ment man­ual makes that im­pos­si­ble.

Both de­tail that none of the state’s three re­gions — Boise, North Idaho or

East Idaho — can host the state cham­pi­onship game in con­sec­u­tive years un­less two teams from that re­gion meet in the fi­nal.

Holt Arena hosted last sea­son’s 5A and 4A cham­pi­onship games. So un­less High­land faced Madi­son or Hill­crest bat­tled Minico, for ex­am­ple, the 5A and 4A cham­pi­onship games could not re­turn to Holt Arena in 2018.

“I know there are peo­ple out there that are say­ing we are mak­ing stuff up as we go,” IHSAA Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Ty Jones said. “This has been in our rules and reg­u­la­tions for 20-plus years. We don’t make stuff up on the fly. We just fol­low the rules we have in place.”

Jones said the one-page Milk Bowl ro­ta­tion doc­u­ment was never meant to stand as the end-all, be-all for cham­pi­onship sce­nar­ios. He said he sent out an email ear­lier in the week warn­ing ad­min­is­tra­tors of this ex­act sce­nario, but many re­ferred back to the Milk Bowl ro­ta­tion doc­u­ment.

“In fair­ness to all the schools, we def­i­nitely could have done a bet­ter job of get­ting in­for­ma­tion out that is more con­densed,” Jones said. “It’s some­thing we will look at in the fu­ture.”

Jones said the rule al­lows Idaho to en­sure the state cham­pi­onship game ro­tates through each re­gion. But he said the IHSAA board will revisit the rule at its next meet­ing Dec. 4.

CON­FU­SION AND BACK­LASH

Any in­for­ma­tion sent from the state last week didn’t make its way to the pub­lic, lead­ing to wide­spread con­fu­sion Fri­day night. Bishop Kelly an­nounced to its fans it would head to Holt Arena next week. And High­land cel­e­brated its vic­tory un­der the as­sump­tion it would get one more game on its home field.

High­land coach Gino Mar­i­ani said he preached to his team that if they kept win­ning, the Rams would bring the state cham­pi­onship game back to Holt Arena. He didn’t learn that was never true un­til af­ter 11 p.m. Fri­day night.

“If that’s the way it is, they should prob­a­bly tell peo­ple the month of the play­offs this is where High­land will play, this is where Hill­crest will play. None of that came out un­til both Hill­crest and High­land won.

“Peo­ple make plans and tell their kids. Now we’re search­ing for ho­tel rooms on a Fri­day night in Boise.”

Mar­i­ani di­rected his frus­tra­tion at the IHSAA.

“They just don’t see the big pic­ture,” he said. “It’s sad, the peo­ple at the state level. We’re talk­ing about the 5A state cham­pi­onship and the 4A state cham­pi­onship, and this is how they treat you?

“You look at neigh­bor­ing states and they’ve got things to­gether and it’s big time. We’re not.”

WHY SATUR­DAY, AND WHY SO EARLY?

Con­flicts with Boise State’s sched­ules tied the IHSAA’S hands. The Bron­cos’ foot­ball team is out of town, but Boise State hosts a men’s and women’s bas­ket­ball dou­ble­header Fri­day night, rul­ing out Al­bert­sons Sta­dium be­cause it and Taco Bell Arena share a park­ing lot.

A pri­vate event at the Stueckle Sky Cen­ter and a Twenty One Pi­lots con­cert at 7 p.m. Satur­day at Taco Bell Arena fur­ther nar­rowed the win­dow for the state cham­pi­onship games. Jones said the only times Boise State could give the IHSAA were 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Satur­day.

“It’s just what they had,” he said. “We have two choices. If want to use their fa­cil­ity — which in all hon­esty, we do. We like be­ing there, and all three places treat us re­ally well. All of our kids love play­ing on those col­lege fields.

“Or the other op­tion is to say, ‘I guess we’ll go host it at high schools,’ and then how good is the seat­ing and all that type of stuff? There’s no way you could put a 5A or a well-at­tended 4A game at a lo­cal high school. It just could not be lo­gis­ti­cally done.”

The 5A cham­pi­onship drew the early game be­cause High­land of Po­catello will travel fewer miles than Hill­crest of Idaho Falls.

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