It’s getting hard to keep things straight without a scorecard as the rules governing Arizona high school sports are in a constant state of flux. The latest overhaul: a new reclassification system.
Less than a year ago, the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) established a formula for determining how schools will be placed in the various divisions. The AIA, the organization that governs prep sports in the state, decided that participation numbers weren’t an accurate measure, so instead it used criteria based on enrollment figures, the percentage of students eligible for free and reduced lunches, and team rankings over the previous four years.
It was hoped the formula would be a better indicator for placement and be a tool to help reduce appeals from schools which felt they were placed in a division that would keep them from being competitive.
That didn’t exactly go as planned. In an Arizona Republic column written by Scott Bordow back in March of this year, he pointed out that within a six-week span there were more than 800 team appeals.
In a special session Friday of the AIA’s legislative council, a sixth conference was added as the decision was made to return to the conferences/regions model from years back, and the three-pronged criteria for placement established last December was thrown out and replaced with a single measure of evaluation: enrollment figures.
Each conference should have about 45 schools, but there are a couple of sports, boys volleyball and badminton, that won’t be included. And the council also approved going back to the regional format, which was used before switching to the divisions and sections currently being used. That move was predicated, in part, on the disruption to rivalry games that had often disappeared in the division/section format.
An idea that would have made some sense – an automatic promotion for schools wanting to be moved up in classification – was set aside. Instead, schools will continue to go through the appeals process, and those appeals will affect the full offering of athletic programs.
An amendment that would have allowed schools to make appeals for individual sports, as has been done in the past, was voted down. And, under the new program that will be instituted for the next two-year scheduling block, if one school is allowed to move up a conference, there must be another that moves down to replace it.
In the six-conference plan, about half of the 272 member schools in the state with sports programs would be placed in the top three conferences; that would include primarily those with enrollments of 1,000 or more. The smaller schools would be scattered among the bottom three conferences.
Let’s face it. We can keep on tweaking this issue and still not satisfy all the school administrators and all the coaches. There will be inequities, which is why the AIA tried using a computer model to map out the last re-classification model, but that seemed to create more problems than it solved.
But the member schools and their coaches have had a chance for more input this time around. Maybe that will spell the difference this time, but don’t expect this to be the final solution. There is sure to be more tinkering when the next scheduling block is done and the results evaluated.