AIA, AZ Family partner on live game broadcasts

Queen Creek high school teams and their counterparts across the state have a new incentive for playing to reach a championship game after the Arizona Interscholastic Association announced last week that it has partnered with Arizona’s Family to broadcast select championship games live on local channels beginning this season.

The announcement comes after the AIA announced a three-year deal with the station, which broadcasts live on channels 3 and 5. The deal makes Arizona’s Family the “Exclusive Content Partner of the AIA,” a position previously held by Bally Sports Arizona.

“I think it’s an awesome step in the right direction,” Red Mountain football coach Kyle Enders said. “I think a big one for me is for people who can’t make it to the games, and to do it on a free platform if they’re local. We stream all of our games for free on YouTube because we have alumni out of state who want to support us. I think it’s awesome.”

The three-year partnership begins this school year. As a result, the 5A, 6A and Open Division football championship games will be live on Arizona’s Family channels. It is the first time since 2015 football championship will be broadcasted on live television.

In previous years, Fox Sports Arizona, which later became Bally Sports Arizona, recorded championship games and broadcasted them on a tape delay.

One of those tape-delayed games was the 2019 6A Conference championship between Red Mountain and Liberty, an instant classic as it took overtime to decide a winner. Enders was the defensive coordinator for the Mountain Lions at the time. The game was streamed through a subscription-based service and showed a week later on TV.

But with live games now, he believes it will help further establish Arizona as a high school football power.

“It’s a chance to showcase our kids and the talent level we have,” Enders said. “It’s great to see schools like Chandler and Saguaro getting ranked nationally where I think they should be. I think this only helps.”

Chandler head football coach Rick Garretson, who coached the Wolves to six straight state title games as both an assistant and the head coach, including last year’s Open Division state championship where they fell to Saguaro. echoed Enders’ sentiment.

He believes the live broadcast won’t, and shouldn’t, have much of an impact on the players’ overall mindsets for a game of that caliber.

But he thinks it’s good for the growth of Arizona high school football as a whole.

“I think for the notoriety of what’s going on, promoting the sport in Arizona, that’s a positive,” Chandler head football coach Rick Garretson said. “It gives everybody the ability to not have to pay but still watch the kids play and support them. I think it’s definitely a positive step for the promotion of AZ football.”

Along with 5A, 6A and the Open Division football championships, Arizona’s Family will also broadcast all 5A, 6A and the new Open Division boys and girls basketball finals. The 5A and 6A baseball and softball championship games will also be live.

Mountain Pointe head basketball coach Kaimarr Price, who led the Pride to two straight state championship games in 2020 and 2021, said it’s a big opportunity for the players. 

“This is a huge opportunity for these young student athletes to have the chance to play on live TV,” Price said in a text. “High school sports provide a unique experience which they will carry the memories of throughout life.”

As part of the partnership, weekly stories on Arizona’s Family channel lineup and the ability to broadcast bracket release shows done for most sports throughout the school year.

Since its inception in 2019, the Open Division football championship game has become one of the must-see events in Arizona high school sports. The first-ever championship game between Saguaro and Chandler drew thousands to Sun Devil Stadium.

In recent years, baseball and softball championship games have nearly filled Farrington Stadium at ASU and Tempe Diablo. Basketball championships, since moved to Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, have also drawn large crowds and that is only expected to grow with the addition of the Open Division for girls and boys this year.

But one constant complaint from Arizona high school sports fans has always been the lack of a working livestream. Now, that problem will likely be solved with the AIA’s new partnership with Arizona’s Family.

“We’re thrilled to have a partner in Arizona’s Family that is able to engage fans in a way that will provide a great deal of excitement around high school sports,” AIA Executive Director David Hines said in a press release.

“The content fans will enjoy are more than just championship events. It’s also how the AIA impacts each school’s community. Now there will be many more opportunities to showcase the talent we have at our schools and those programs.”

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