The 5A conference went back to the future on Thursday in coming up with region alignments for the next two-year scheduling block.
The conference decided to mix Division I and Division II schools within the same regions, as they did from 2005-2007, and also split up schools from East Valley school districts into separate regions.
The biggest factor in the realignment, it seems, was competition — although, according to Arizona Interscholastic Association bylaws, that is not a criterion.
“No system is perfect,” Tempe Corona del Sol athletic director Dan Nero said. “It doesn’t matter how you do (realignment), there’s always going to be competition. That seems to be the guiding light. It’s an issue that enters the discussion.”
As a result of the realignment, the Fiesta Region was eliminated. The Central, East Valley and Pima regions were completely overhauled and now feature both D-I and D-II schools as well as members from at least four different school districts.
“I don’t like losing our relationship with the Fiesta,” said John Carlson, the district athletic director for Chandler. “I wouldn’t say I’m thrilled about this, but we’ll make the best of it, go back to our schools and see what they think.”
Appeals to the proposal will be heard by the 5A Executive Board on Nov. 5.
The 5A board considered only one proposal Thursday — the mixed region proposal put forth by Tempe Marcos de Niza athletic director Mike Griffith. Needing a two-thirds vote to pass, the proposal was approved 20-7.
“The driving forces of the proposal are No. 1 geography, No. 2 competitiveness and No. 3 numbers,” Griffith said.
Representatives from Gilbert, Chandler and Mesa — the school districts that were scattered to at least three different regions — voted against the proposal.
“I think it’s good for Skyline and Westwood,” Mesa district athletic director Steve Hogen said. “I’m not so sure about Mesa (High).”
Under the current alignment, Mesa schools are grouped in the East Valley Region, Tempe schools form the Central Region, and Gilbert and Chandler schools comprise the Fiesta Region with the exception of Chandler Basha (Central).
“The Fiesta Region went away in a heartbeat didn’t it?” Gilbert district athletic director Mark Cisterna said. “I really liked the relationships we’ve developed with Chandler schools over the years. But that’s how people voted. It’s good for some of our schools. Highland will be in a tough region, but I think they’ll be able to compete.”
The new Central Region, as proposed, appears loaded with Phoenix Brophy/Xavier, Chandler, Phoenix Desert Vista, Chandler Hamilton, Gilbert Highland, Mesa High and Mesa Red Mountain. Consider the following:
• From a football standpoint, seven of the eight biggest class state titles this decade have been won by schools in this region (Red Mountain, Hamilton and Brophy).
• Five of the top nine enrollments in 5A belong to the Central Region (Mesa, Red Mountain, Hamilton, Chandler and Highland).
• In every sport last school year (2007-2008), at least one team in that newly formed region finished in the top four at state.
Brophy and Xavier, longtime members of the Desert Valley Region, like their new spot with East Valley powers, even though Brophy was separated from its longtime parochial-school rival, Phoenix St. Mary’s (which remains in the Desert Valley).
“I think our coaches feel comfortable with it,” Brophy athletic director John Chambers said. “We’ll have to work harder because we’re in with some of the very best schools.”
Several board members questioned Brophy/Xavier’s move to a region with schools in the east and southeast Valley when geography and competition seemed fine in the Desert Valley. But an amendment to move those schools back to the Desert Valley was nixed.
Three East Valley and Scottsdale schools will change divisions next year: Scottsdale Desert Mountain went from 5A-I to 5A-II, while Mesa Skyline and Mesa Desert Ridge go from D-II to D-I.
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