During a hearing Wednesday afternoon, the Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association waived a set of rules that restricted member school
Rainier Beach (Seattle)
from participating in a national high school basketball tournament in April.
Reversing course on an earlier decision, the WIAA cleared the way for the Vikings to play in the Dick's Sporting Goods National High School Tournament, which will be held in New York City with the finals at Madison Square Garden.
"The Board realizes this will take the Association down a new path," WIAA Executive Director Mike Colbrese said. "A special committee has been formed to discuss the parameters for teams participating in events similar to this."
Formerly known as the National High School Invitational and held in Maryland, the event has typically drawn independent schools from around the country. However, governing bodies like the Florida High School Athletic Association and New York's Public Schools Athletic League have granted special permission to members in the past.See the boys basketball playoff brackets from each state
Rainier Beach is currently 25-0 and ranked No. 2 nationally by MaxPreps
. The Vikings are putting up over 90 points per game and winning by an average margin of over 30 points per outing. Their most recent contest was a 40-point thumping of a talented Eastside Catholic (Sammamish) squad in the Sea-King district title game.
In order to reach the Big Apple, however, Rainier Beach will have to win the Class 3A state title.
"We weren't putting the cart before the horse at all with this. We know this won't be a cakewalk," Rainier Beach head coach Mike Bethea said. "We just wanted to make sure that in case we won the state title that we were prepared. If we tried to fight this battle after, it would have been too late."
The WIAA's decision could open the doors for more state governing bodies to grant permission to its members to compete.
"Mike Colbrese and I go way back and I understand there is a reason you have policies in place and you have to adhere to those," Bethea said. "But they do grant waivers and this was such a special, one-time event I think they really saw that in the end. It's good for Rainier Beach and it's good for Washington in general."
The two-time defending Class 3A state champs meet Mercer Island in a regional playoff matchup Friday night.