Horns Appeal 4a Region Choice

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A controversial decision by Class 4A athletic directors to place Payson High School in the North region will be appealed.

Thursday, only two days after new 4A member Payson was slotted in the North with Mingus, Page, Chinle and three Flagstaff schools, Payson High officials and members of the governing board decided the placement was not in the best interests of the school or its athletes.

Payson High's plea will be heard Nov. 3 by the same eight Class 4A conference officials who originally placed Payson into the North region.

In the original 4A voting, officials were unanimous in placing Payson in the North.

"It was a slam dunk, an 8-0 vote," PHS Athletic Director Dave Bradley said.

According to Bradley, Payson's appeal will focus on AIA bylaws that state a school should be located in a region that affords students less travel and out-of-school time.

Bradley also will contend that the Longhorns placement into the North would cause the school undue financial pressure due to increased travel expenses to far away locations like Chinle and Page.

If conference officials reject Payson's plea, the school has the option of appealing to the nine-member AIA executive board at its regularly scheduled meeting Nov. 18. That board's decision would be final.

A decision about whether to take Payson's appeal to the AIA executive board will not be made until after 4A conference officials make their judgment, Bradley said.

Payson's appeal will probably ask that the school be placed in an East Valley league with the likes of Apache Junction, Tempe and other area schools.

Bradley said he was not optimistic conference officials or the AIA executive board would grant Payson's plea because there is no precedence for doing so.

AIA Associate Executive Director Glen Tredaway said the board, which includes representatives of the five conferences, would make a decision based on the best interests of all the schools involved.

Payson High's move to 4A from 3A, where the Longhorns had resided since 1982, was made official on Oct. 1 when enrollment was 968 students. The cut-off for the 3A conference is 949. Payson High, just 19 students over the 3A maximum, will be far and away the smallest school in 4A. Some Valley 4A schools have student bodies in excess of 1,500 students.

Most Payson coaches have expressed their desires to compete in a Valley region rather than traveling to Flagstaff, Page and Chinle.

Boys basketball coach Mike Loutzenheiser and wrestling coach Dave LaMotte contend that bus travel over the Lake Mary Road to Flagstaff during the snowy winter months would be too hazardous,

Baseball coach Teddy Pettet said that spring play in the warmer Valley climate would be much more appealing than the weather conditions at the higher Flagstaff elevations.

Coaches of the winter sports also argue that on school day road games, athletes might not return to Payson until the wee hours of the morning.

"That makes for a rough next school day," Loutzenheiser said.

If Payson's appeal is rejected by both the conference and AIA boards, Bradley contends "creative scheduling" could solve some of the problems associated with being a member of the North region.

"In football, Chinle has agreed to play an independent schedule so we wouldn't have to go there," he said. "Some of the other North schools, in other sports, have agreed to meet at a neutral site, where we could play two and three games."

Payson High's placement dilemma is nothing new for the Longhorns. In the early 1980s, when Payson moved to the 3A conference from 2A, East region schools like Show Low and Snowflake battled to keep the Longhorns out. The East schools contended they didn't want to travel over the Rim to Payson when there was plenty of good competition at home in the White Mountains.

After a couple of years as an East orphan, Payson was relocated to the West region with Parker, Dysart, Buckeye and Wickenburg.

An AIA decision two years later returned Payson to the East. An AIA mandate in 1996 relocated the Longhorns to the newly formed Central Division. After the Central was disbanded two years later, Payson found itself in the East once again.

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