A controversial new computerized system that could drastically change the way high school sports schedules are compiled, how much time is spent traveling and region membership is being proposed by the Arizona Interscholastic Association and backed by some school superintendents.
“(The proposal) is not coming from ADs, but being pushed by principals and superintendents,” said Snowflake athletic director Kevin Standerfer.
The proposed computer system is supposed to keep teams closer to home thereby reducing travel time and student-athletes’ time out of class.
Those two factors, “are two main drivers in computer scheduling,” said AIA Director of Media Marketing Brian Bolitho.
While the proposed new scheduling system is still in the planning stages, it would divide the state into five travel districts — A, B, C, D and E.
Then, the scheduling goal would be for teams to not leave their travel district for regular season games.
To accomplish that, game scheduling would be taken out of the hands of high school athletic directors and turned over to a computer.
Under the old system, 3A athletic directors simply phoned one another every two years and asked, “Do want to play and if so when?”
Then they penciled in the dates.
Although the computer system is intended to decrease travel and time out of school, Standerfer, Payson AD Jason Lobik and others around the state wonder if the new system might actually increase both.
“It has that potential,” Standerfer said. “It all depends on the criteria (in the computerized system).”
Also, the new scheduling could mean the end of the East Region as we know it today.
For example, Standerfer points out that Snowflake might be required to play games against the North Region reservation schools, rather than against Payson, which is now a fellow East Region member.
Payson High also might be required to play home and away contests against Fountain Hills, because of the two schools geographical proximity. Fountain Hills is now a member of the South Region, 3A conference.
Also, PHS would probably be scheduled to play 2A conference member Camp Verde, because of its location near Payson.
The Longhorns also might be playing the three Flagstaff schools, depending upon the geographical system and criteria the AIA settles on.
Standerfer said he would be troubled by any watering down of the East, especially in football, because it has proven to be such a competitive, close-knit group of schools.
If the East were dismantled in football, it would certainly affect the quality of competition.
The downslide would occur because most teams outside the East are not as competitive year-in and year-out as Blue Ridge, Payson, Round Valley, Snowflake and Show Low. Those schools are known in gridiron circles as “The Beasts of the East.”
PHS coach Josh Anderson argues there is not one East football coach in favor of dismantling the region system in favor of proximity scheduling.
“Breaking up the East would greatly disappoint me and as the 3A representative to the AIA, I would have many things to discuss with the AIA,” he said. “We are having our Arizona Football Coaches Association meeting Saturday and we’ll be discussing such issues.”
The coach believes the solution to impending problems might be for the “AIA to actually listen to the people who would be most affected by such scheduling issues.”
What about power points?
Another concern being shown by athletic directors is how a computerized scheduling system would affect power points.
“If we are required to go play St. Johns, a 2A school, and Payson plays Mingus, a 4A-2 school, Payson would receive more power points,” Standerfer said.
In the power points system, schools receive bonus points on strength of schedule and for playing a conference higher than they are aligned. They receive fewer points for playing in a lower conference.
Also power points are awarded on number of wins by an opponent.
So, if Round Valley beats a North reservation football team that is 2-8 and Payson whips an 8-2 East team, PHS receives more power points than RV.
“We talked about this problem and were told the power points system could be changed,” Lobik said.
Both Standerfer and Lobik attended an AIA meeting Dec. 17 to discuss the proposed new scheduling system.
The proposal also has ADs teetering on the edge of their seats because it has not yet been finalized and time is growing short to schedule the next two-year block of games.
Under the old system, Lobik said, “I’d have begun doing our schedules back in November and be finishing them up about now.”
Because the AIA computer proposal is still being studied, no scheduling has been done in the 3A conference.
There is, however, hope for a quick solution, because computer scheduling is to be voted on March 6 at the next AIA legislative council meeting.
“Currently a third-party computer programmer is incorporating the needs and wants of the conferences and regions into a scheduling demo that should be back to the committee in late January,” Bolitho said. “It should be back to the conferences the first week of February.”
Although East ADs are more than a bit antsy that the scheduling process has not begun, AIA officials have told them to not worry, that an acceptable system is just around the corner.
“We have our fingers crossed,” Lobik said.
Computerized scheduling, if it becomes a reality, would be unique to Arizona.
“I know a region or two in Tucson uses their own version of computer scheduling to a degree, but not on a large scale like the one currently being developed,” Bolitho said.