Dramatic changes in regional and state tournaments could be coming as early as next fall if an Arizona Interscholastic Association plan to reduce the number of participants, events and venues is approved.
The proposals, which are still preliminary at this point, are designed to reduce costs and would affect individual sports such as golf, tennis, cross country, wrestling and track.
The biggest changes would consolidate 5A-I and 5A-II championships into one event, 4A-I and 4A-II into one event, and 3A, 2A and 1A into one event. Instead of seven state championships, there would be three. Or, in some sports such as golf, schools could simply be divided into groups based on enrollment.
The number of athletes who qualify could also be reduced so that only the “elite” athletes compete at the state level.
AIA Executive Director Harold Slemmer emphasized “they’re only ideas which will be further discussed by conferences.”
These ideas were brought up during the AIA Executive Board meeting this week, and the plan is to present a more definitive outline during the April meeting. The hope is these ideas (or variations of them) are passed by May and would take effect for the 2010-2011 school year.
“We can’t afford to keep going down this road with this many participants,” Slemmer said. “It’s unrealistic. I think other states figured it out years ago, but we want to protect the class and integrity of how we present these tournaments and award championships.”
Team sports (football, volleyball, softball, baseball, basketball, soccer) aren’t likely to see significant changes, though some ideas to help reduce travel costs could be presented in April.
If fewer athletes qualify for state tournaments/meets in individual sports and fewer meets are conducted, the AIA could reduce the number of venues necessary to conduct as many as 14 different state tournaments that currently take place for some sports (seven for boys, seven for girls).
Slemmer said that if implemented, most of these ideas would save a “ballpark figure” of $40,000-$50,000 per school year for individual sports, including schools’ travel costs and fees to use the various venues. Reducing the number of individual sport participants would also reduce the amount of missed classroom time.
For example, instead of six wrestling tournaments there would be three. Instead of 12 total cross country meets there would be six or eight. Swimming may get cut down into three conferences.
“It’s become burdensome and inefficient,” Slemmer said.
He estimated a $65,000 bill for four state golf tournaments for 5A and 4A conferences for boys and girls last fall, and forecasted golf course fees to continue increasing because of courses’ economic struggles.
Slemmer also said the number of individual championships would be loosely based on the number of schools that participate in the particular sport, not necessarily the enrollment of those participating schools because he believes student enrollment figures aren’t as significant in individual competitions.
For sports such as track, cross country or swimming, a new state-tournament qualifying standard would be set based on past results to where, for example, perhaps only 15 to 25 percent of all kids who participate would reach the standard and qualify for the state meet for each event.
“The truth is many of these kids really aren’t the best in the state, they’re good golfers or cross country kids, but not really the truly elite,” Slemmer said. “We’ve had the attitude in the past where 50 percent of kids competing got to the tournament. I think with this, when we get to the state tournament it’ll be really top ones in each sport and give us a real accurate picture of who the best are in their respective sports.”
Slemmer said the AIA will “absolutely seek input from the conferences” to determine those standards for each sport as well as further ideas toward reducing state tournament expenses. There is also a possibility of changing the number of state-qualifying-eligible meets during the regular season to reduce or possibly eliminate the need for regionals in some sports.
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