Football Coaches Want Changes With Aia

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Only three years ago, the Arizona Interscholastic Association and the Arizona Newspapers Association were locked in a heated argument on how state newspapers could cover prep sporting events, gather the news for those stories and the use of photographs.

That dispute was eventually settled, but today it’s the Arizona Football Coaches Association that is haggling with the powers that run AIA.

It seems the argument centers on how much input football coaches should have in the decisions the AIA makes about the sport

The debate is nothing new, it’s been going on since I coached high school football in the 1980s and 90s.

I understand why the football coaches’ association members want a voice and I sympathize with their frustrations.

As a head coach, I can’t remember ever having any input into AIA decisions, even when a decision directly involved a team I was coaching.

Most former coaches I know say the AIA never consulted them when decisions were to be made regarding football.

Apparently what coaches now want is for the AIA to form a committee of football coaches that would have input on any decisions the association makes regarding the sport.

What is so unreasonable about that request?

Reportedly, more than 50 percent of the state’s coaches have signed a petition urging the change, and many more are expected to sign before the petition is turned in to the AIA.

The dispute has been going on behind the scenes for decades, but was thrust into the public’s eye Feb. 4 when Arizona Republic sports reporter Scott Bordow penned a column titled “Football coaches asking for more input in AIA decisions.”

Bordow quotes Cactus High School coach Larry Felkenhier as saying, “There is a lot of frustration out there among the coaches. I’m not afraid to stand up and I think a lot of coaches feel that way.”

Bordow also quotes Chandler Hamilton coach Steve Belles as saying, “We have no input on anything that happens with our own sport.”

Belles then asked, “We’re the ones putting most of the time into it (football) so why don’t we have input?”

Bordow’s column and coaches’ complaints must have struck an AIA nerve because association Executive Assistant Lorie Tranter recently fired off a letter to all of the state’s head football coaches denying most of the allegations concerning coaches being on the outside looking in.

She wrote, “There will be no formal response playing out in the paper” and then went on to list several examples of what the AIA has done to promote football through listening to coaches.

She also penned, “coaches have an opportunity to discuss any and all issues with their administration and that has been done in the past and will continue into the future.”

Wow, Ms. Tranter missed the point entirely. In fact, coaches do not want to filter their concerns and opinions through school administrators.

As a former coach, I know all too well something gets lost in the translation when a coach expresses concerns to an administrator who then approaches AIA big wigs seeking a resolution.

That’s why coaches should have a way to express concerns directly to the AIA.

An example of the frustration coaches feel occurred during the 2006-2007 high school basketball season after the AIA ruled Lady Longhorn player Rhea Cosay ineligible and barred the team from the 3A state tournament, after they won the East region tournament championship and were a favorite to win the state title.

A mere clerical error by school personnel caused the problem, but AIA turned a deaf ear to the concerns of coaches, players and parents.

I know of two coaches who wanted to voice an opinion, but had no way to do it.

Also, I do not recall the AIA discussing the situation or seeking advice from any PHS, East region or conference coach.

The ruling was a like a commandment from Heaven and the heck with what any of the coaches affected had to say.

At the time, PHS principal Roy Sandoval was extremely upset with what he said was AIA officials’ cavalier attitude in shrugging off any suggestions or remedies.

Unfortunately, AIA often acts with that sort of highhanded disregard for the views of the people its rulings affect. That’s exactly what happened in the organization’s dispute with newspapers, when the organization insisted it should own the photographs and stories produced by newspaper employees at tournaments and games. AIA and ANA-member editors and reporters eventually settled their contentious scrap over restrictions the AIA was attempting to impose on how journalists cover sports events.

But the agreement came only after editors and publishers refused to sign the AIA credential agreement and finally returned them to the AIA.

At one point, the dispute would have adversely affected the way the Payson Roundup and other state newspapers cover prep sports. That would have been a shame.

Let’s hope that the AIA and the Arizona Football Coaches Association can resolve their scrap before it has any negative effects on high school football.

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