The tinkering with the Arizona Interscholastic Association is an ongoing process.
Communication with the schools and athletic programs the AIA serves has opened up with the influx of new faces and voices throughout the organization and the committees.
It has led to a special session being called for Friday by the Legislative Council.
Several subjects will be discussed, put to a vote and will shape the way the sports landscape in Arizona will look over the next several years.
The first two topics have to do with the makeup of legislative council and executive board.
While important, especially the diversity and number of members, it is hardly the main target of Friday’s special session.
There will be a vote on adding a sixth conference while going back to the region style set up that was an ingrained part of high school sports before the switch to divisions and sections in recent years.
There has been a sentiment brewing to go back to the region format – Fiesta, Central, Wells Fargo etc. were the names of the past – in order to rebuild rivalries, give a regular season reward and give athletes some additional recognition with all-region team voting.
“The loss of regions changed the community and city feel to some of the sports,” Mesa district athletic director Steve Hogen said. “You used to play teams in your region in sports like basketball, volleyball, baseball and softball twice. It created intensity and rivalry that is sometimes missing.”
The idea of six conference is derived by the need to create more equal-sized playing fields.
Right now, in this one year plan that may take hold for two more years if the new proposal doesn’t pass, Division I football has 17 teams, Division III girls volleyball has 80 teams and there are many other examples.
There are roughly 270 schools that field sports programs with 131 of those schools with more than 1,000 students and 139 with less than that.
The sixth conference would allow for an almost even split down the middle of the big school and small school sports programs with any school above 1,000 settling in between the top three conferences.
It puts about 43 teams in each conference for the big schools and 46 in the three small conferences.
Of course the elephant in that room will be what to do with football.
There is a growing sentiment that some of the decisions made for this sports schools year are already paying dividends for football programs in Phoenix Union, which all moved down to Division III rather than being piñatas in Division I along with success of the rejuvenation of several other programs.
If the six conference is added and a blanket placement is based on the enrollment of the school is put in place some of the good done will be reversed.
There doesn’t seem to be a groundswell of support for football to be treated separate from all other sports.
“I think it is going to be up to membership to see how things have been done in the past with football,” AIA Associate Executive Director David Hines said in a radio interview on Saturday. “That is the sport that the size of school makes a huge difference in ability to compete.
“If you put football off to the side and treat it a little different then we have some options.”
The appeals process will also need to addressed as schools were allowed to appeal for sports individually previously. In order to keep the numbers around 43-45 per conference the appeals would pertain the athletic program as a whole and if one school goes down then another has to go up.
In other words, there is a lot of be considered and plenty riding on the special session.
“A great deal of discussion has been going on,” Hogen said. “It will be interesting to see what comes of it.”
There is never going to be complete agreement or satisfaction within in a district let along 270 schools.
It’s a matter of finding a best option and sticking with it.
“The six Mesa schools would love to be in the same region,” Hogen said. “If that happen then we are happy. If it doesn’t do that way, and it says the way it is then we can live with that, too.
“Trying to figure out what is good for the entire state is terribly difficult.”
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