As time passes and technology evolves, man has gradually been replaced by computer in a number of jobs and roles. That time is fast approaching for high school athletic directors when it comes to scheduling athletic contests for Arizona high schools.
In an effort to reduce travel and save time and money for athletic directors, the Arizona Interscholastic Association is pushing schools to adopt a computer scheduling model in which it would create schedules for all Arizona schools. That task currently resides with each of the school district athletic directors, who spend countless hours on the phone and in meetings creating schedules for their teams.
So far, however, reaction to the proposal is mixed among high school coaches and administrators.
Relinquishing the ability to schedule rival schools and either increase or decrease the level of competition are some concerns. Power points, which are used to select and seed teams for state tournaments, could also be affected.
The issue will be before the AIA Legislative Council at its annual meeting Friday. It likely will not pass at that meeting, simply because there are still bugs in the computer scheduling system that officials want to see resolved before considering it.
But even if it doesn't pass for next year, most school officials believe its time is coming.
ADVANTAGES OF COMPUTER SCHEDULING
"We need ways to be efficient and computer scheduling is something that will help our member schools in so many ways," AIA assistant executive director Chuck Schmidt said last month.
One of the most important ways it can help, especially as schools cut their budgets in these tough economic times, is travel costs. Even though fuel prices have backed off from the $4 a gallon they were nine months ago, they are still high and revenues are low.
Computer scheduling could dictate that teams play schools that are closest to them, geographically, which means fewer miles traveled and less school time lost. Athletic directors would also be saved from attending several scheduling meetings and missing three or four days of work.
Corona del Sol athletic director Dan Nero, a veteran of scheduling meetings, said that on average, ADs probably meet four or five times, adding up to 20-25 hours of work, which doesn't include the scheduling of junior varsity and freshman teams.
Another plus of computer scheduling is it would make the AIA the central base for schedules. The AIA would have more direct access to schedules when booking officials and making date changes.
"Computer scheduling is not a bad idea," Nero said. "I think everyone understands no system is perfect or will please everyone when a schedule is completed. Do we want our jobs to be easier? Sure. But stepping back a little and not rushing into this may be good. When the bugs get worked out, it looks like it can be a very efficient way of getting this process done."
CONCERNS OF COMPUTER SCHEDULING
Computer scheduling holds the promise to be friendly to schools' scheduling needs. But with schools trying to decide on parameters (mileage, number of region games, nonregion games, games outside a metro area, rivalry games) it's been hard in mock-ups for things to work smoothly.
"We had one of our schools in Tucson in a mock-up have a schedule that had them playing 10 Phoenix schools," Southern Region chair Sheila Baize said. "There are bugs in the model. We've had a computer helping (Tucson) schedule for the last 10 years. It's a lot easier with 20 some schools than it is trying to schedule 260 schools."
Athletic directors used to tailoring a schedule up or down in terms of competition may have trouble via computer. For example, the perennially strong Mesa High boys basketball team may want to play a tougher schedule, whereas the Mesa girls basketball team may prefer to schedule nonregion games against lesser teams closer to their ability.
The number of schools in each region will also be larger next year when realignment kicks in. Regions will consist of 6 to 9 teams rather than the current 4 to 7, which means there will be fewer nonregion games available to play. As a result, schools may have a harder time getting games against rival schools that are not in their region.
"We no longer have Mountain View and Dobson in our region, but we still want to play them because of sister-school rivalries and competition," Mesa Red Mountain softball coach Rich Hamilton said. "At best we can only play them once. We'd also like to play some of the best schools on the west side of town, like a Deer Valley or Centennial. I don't know if we'll be able to get that kind of crossover given limitations I've heard about."
With larger regions, power points may become an issue as well, regardless of whether a computer is used or not. With fewer non-region games available, teams in metro Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma will play fewer schools from other regions since region games or games in their metro areas will comprise 90 percent of their schedules.
"If you don't have a lot of crossover, and that's going to be the case with the large regions and those with travel restrictions, the power-point system is essentially meaningless," Mesa district athletic director Steve Hogen said.