He'll soon be stepping down as executive director of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association. But after 23 years in the role, Doug Chickering, who will be retiring on July 31, has seen changes that he said has put the state's athletic program on solid ground for the future.
Chickering was on the WIAA's Board of Directors for six years before joining the staff.
“I didn't know if it'd be 23 or 24 years but I envisioned it to be at least a 15-year commitment,” he said. “We've been able to expand our tournament opportunities for schools and kids in a couple of different ways. We've been able to add divisions in a lot of our sports to make enrollment ranges more compatible. We've added opportunities in individual sports for kids to enter the tournament series when in other years they might not have been able to.”
Prior to 2000, the WIAA was exclusively a public school organization.
“We had been that way for the entire history of the WIAA although there had been some non-public schools as members very early back in later days of the 19th century,” Chickering said. “That caused us to do things in terms of governance and led to some tournament expansion. We did about 10 years ago move into a building that allowed us to do things electronically and from a technological standpoint that is necessary for a state organization.
“I leave three months from now feeling very good about the people that are in place.”
During his 23 years, WIAA membership went from 430 to 505 by adding the private schools.
There are plenty of challenges awaiting the WIAA and incoming executive director Dave Anderson, currently the deputy director.
“A lot of work has to be done with interfacing and having more communication and dialogue with other program providers, like clubs and other things the kids participate in outside of their season in high school sports,” Chickering said. “We need to indicate to them why certain provisions need to be in place and give them a chance to tell us what their mission and objectives are. We do feel those programs are geared toward elite athletes and elite teams. In order to preserve the integrity that we feel interscholastic athletics have, we have to continue to provide as many programs as we can for all kids, regardless of ability as we possibly can.”
Chickering noted that his association is one of the few across the country that has responsibility for assignments of schools in conferences.
“That's always emotional when you talk about moving a school from one league to another,” he said. “We also recently had our membership talk about one baseball season. We now have a spring and summer season depending on the wishes of the community.
“Recently we've had interest expressed to us with two dimensions to it. One is to have a nine-player option available to schools (for football) because of declining enrollments. Also, some feel all schools should enter the football playoffs regardless of conference standing or record. Right now only 224 of our football schools get into postseason play.”
Chickering noted that before the WIAA took over control of conferences, more than 30 were outside of a league. Right now, only one school in the state is not in a conference.
One issue of great concern came after Sept. 11, 2001.
“A decision had to be made on whether or not to have our schools play contests that weekend,” Chickering said, recalling that the decision was made for the events to be played. “When we announced we were going to allow our schools to play, there were some that thought this was appropriate and we should shut everything down. But at the time, our president said we had to start on the road to our normal routine.”
Boys Basketball: Hamilton forfeits alter City Conference
Milwaukee Hamilton was recently forced to forfeit seven City Conference victories and two non-conference victories for the 2008-2009 boys basketball season.
The forfeits changed Hamilton's 12-1 conference record to 5-8 and turned its 19-4 overall record into a 10-13 season. That means that Washington (12-1) is the sole City champion. The reason for the forfeits was using an ineligible player.