High school coaches around the state are busy evaluating the new classification placements that came out Monday – and probably asking themselves, “Didn’t I just go through this process?”
Indeed they did. Less than a year ago. And now they have less than a week to decide whether their schools were correctly placed in one of the six conferences just created using the new formula, which takes effect for the 2016-17 school year. Deadline for appeal is next Tuesday, the 20th.
In December of 2014, the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) made sweeping changes that included moving away from the formula of using just enrollment figures to determine division placement. Instead, the new criteria would take into account the percentage of students eligible for free and reduced lunches, and recent program success – or lack thereof.
Now, 10 months later, we’re back to using enrollment as the primary determining factor, without consideration for the other two elements. Schools were required to submit their enrollment figures by Oct. 1.
Four of the six conferences just created will each have 42 schools. The largest placement, 50 schools, have been put in 1A, and 43 in 3A. However, this is the initial placement and must still face appeals, so there will be some changes before the schedules are actually finalized.
There will most certainly be appeals to move down, but few of those are expected to be granted as the AIA will try to hold the line as much as possible. The schools will have some additional tools besides enrollment to plead their case, including geographic hardship, student participation information, and a history of how competitive their program has been in the past.
In passing the amendment at Monday’s meeting, the AIA’s legislative council held the line on requiring that appeals be considered on a program-wide basis, rather than the team-by-team approach tried in the past.
There were a couple of other noteworthy items that were approved at that meeting: 1) Beginning with the new school year, regional representatives will schedule home and away games, and 2) If they prefer, schools can continue using computer scheduling.
The success of this latest attempt at classification is going to depend on a couple of key factors.
First, the weaker (less-affluent) teams in the various conferences will have to play the big boys on their schedule. But they will need to also have some of the similar-level teams to guarantee there will be a sufficient number of games that will be competitive – and winnable. That could be helped by setting up some cross-conference scheduling.
For many programs, the objective should be shifted to winning rivalry games and regional titles, rather than focusing on goals that may be unrealistic, given their level of talent, such as state championships.
And it will be very important that the athletic directors at the various schools are willing to work together to help resolve scheduling issues.
If the schools will work at it, maybe this latest attempt at re-classification will last longer than 10 weeks.