Future Of Phs Athletics Is An Uncomfortable Unknown


Trying to make sense of what is occurring in Payson High School athletic offices and what will unfold for next school year’s sports teams and coaches is as baffling as Bigfoot, Stone Hinge or the existence of alternative universes.

First off, two head coaches — Byron Quinlan in football and baseball’s Scott Novack — have resigned and must be replaced.

Then there is the matter of the athletic director. Gary Fishel is the current AD, but there are indications he might be on his way out to become a full-time head teacher at Payson Center for Success.

Then there’s the issue of what the AD position will actually be next year.

Newly-named high school principal Anna Van Zile has indicated she would like to roll the job into an all-encompassing one that would include the duties of an activities director, dean and athletic director.

When that person is hired they must find replacements for Quinlan and Novack, quell a group of interfering parents, soothe discontented coaches and somehow solve a burning financial dilemma centering on coaches being asked to raise funds for their own salaries and Credit for Kids money being diverted to coaching paychecks.

Adding to the mystery of how things will unfold next year is the incoming presence of new superintendent Ron Hitchcock.

Around the Rim Country, residents are itching to find out what emphasis he will put on sports and athletics and what role he thinks they play in the overall education of young people.

Following an Extra Points I wrote May 18 titled “Is Payson a coaching graveyard?” I’ve received a number of comments from current PHS coaches.

Most responses I’ve received are similar to this one, “I think you wrote what many coaches want to but won’t say. I believe we have the talent here to have better results and win more championships, but that won’t happen until the climate (parental interference and lack of complete support from administration) occurs.”

It is obvious coaching morale is at an all-time low, but there are those higher-ups that don’t want to admit it.

There are, however, a group of former PHS coaches who admit they are concerned and would like to help rectify the problems the programs face.

But, they are taking a wait-and-see approach, hoping Van Zile and Hitchcock show strong support for athletics by hiring a knowledgeable and passionate AD with a strong background in high school sports.

Their next hope is the new AD is allowed to scour the state in search of top-tier coaches for both the baseball and football programs.

If that occurs, PHS could be well on its way to regaining its once-proud reputation of being a top-notch school athletically as well as academically.

Paradise Valley calls

James Brian Mabb, the Queen Creek High School assistant principal who was once a finalist for the Payson High principal job, did quite well for himself after being rejected at PHS.

Just days ago, he was named the new principal of Paradise Valley High School and will earn $90,899 per year.

That’s quite a bit more than the $73,000 he would have made had he been chosen the PHS principal.

In hiring Mabb, school officials lauded him, saying he had two master’s degrees, had faculty associate status at Northern Arizona University, was fluent in Spanish, had recognition from the National Association of Secondary School Principals, was a certified evaluator for school accreditation and a high level of technological literacy.


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