Change is coming to the Gridiron Classic, drawing mixed reactions from Washington high school football coaches.
The WIAA executive board voted Sunday amid negotiations to not renew a three-year deal with the Tacoma Dome as the host site for the 2019 Washington football state championships, which will likely mark the first time the event is held outdoors in over 30 years.
Per the WIAA, a decision on a location — or perhaps more likely, locations — will come sometime in the fall.
Scorebook Live Washington spoke to a handful of coaches to gauge their thoughts on the situation, including Mountain View’s Adam Mathieson, who is also the school’s athletic director.
Coaches react to Gridiron Classic news:
(Editor’s note: answers have been edited for space.)
Adam Mathieson, Mountain View AD and football coach (3A)
Playoff resume: Won 2006 state title as AD at Meridian; two state semifinal appearances (Ferndale, 1999 as assistant; Mountain View, 2018); four quarterfinal appearances (2000, 2001, 2003, 2013).
What was your reaction to the news?
Mathieson: As an AD and as a coach you have different perspectives on things, right? As an AD who tries to balance a building budget, you understand those budget things that are very real and demand stuff from that type of facility and then as a coach you understand how cool it is potentially to play in a venue where the weather isn’t an indicator potentially when it comes to playing a game the first week of December. I can appreciate both lenses. I don’t have any strong opinion on it other than OK, those are the chips we (have), so how do we go to work on finding out what the best venue is to get the kids the coolest experience in the state of Washington when it comes to football.
Some coaches have said the Dome holds a special significance.
Mathieson: It’s the Dome. Everyone in the state of Washington knows what the Dome means. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with redefining that, truthfully. I think so many times we’re afraid to change and what the possibilities are. I think the pageantry of being able to stack all those games inside, I think it’s awesome I can go stay at my in-laws’ house and watch four games on a Saturday from my seat and eat a bunch of nachos and I bring a sweater and not anything else. That kind of stuff is awesome. I also think it’s an exciting challenge for the leadership of our state — the WIAA, our coaches association, etc. It’s important for us to go, OK, the Dome didn’t make the pageantry and factually speaking the Dome is gone, so what do we tell our kids all the time, to look at the play that just ended, or look at the next play? To me it’s real life. This is why football is so great, that play is over. I view it on one hand we can look back and say pageantry’s awesome, awesome to watch all six games. And the flip side is OK, that’s great, cool memories, let’s look at the photo album. But how do we give the kids an equally great experience, right?
How has your past playoff experience informed your opinion?
Mathieson: I played in the Emerald City Kickoff Classics at Hudson Stadium. I’ve played in a wonderful semifinal at Lampson before; I’ve coached in a snow game in Joe Albi. I played last year in a semifinal at Skyline. And to me, what you’re still trying to do is give the kids an experience like this is a big deal, your football team is playing 13-14 weeks and us as adults and leaders for kids are going to do our very best to give kids a great experience. And I don’t know the Tacoma Dome itself … that itself isn’t a great experience, you know what I mean? There’s a lot that goes into making it a great experience. I do think there are some venues that will be better suited for TV. Having those games on TV is a big deal. That’s a cool part of the experience. It’s OK, here’s the cards we got, how do we put the kids first? You could pick all the sites. And maybe there’s a reason in the finals if Colville is playing Deer Park, why are they going to Pop Kinney to play a game? Maybe it’s the best venue, best pageantry, and the best experience.
Was it a topic of conversation among the players at practice?
Mathieson: No, not really. Just chatter. What’s going on now? Or whatnot. Nothing like, aw crap, we’re never playing in the Dome ever again. And I think that’s football coaches, right? The nature of football coaches is to constantly preach, what’s next? I looked at the article, didn’t really read it and said looks like it’s official. OK. Gotta buy some extra hand warmers. Here we go. We should invest in some portable heating devices.
Andy Buhler is a reporter for Scorebook Live Washington. To hear him every week on the Scorebook Live Today podcast, subscribe here. Follow him on Twitter @AndyBuhler and reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.