The state’s prep sports landscape will undergo major changes when the Arizona Interscholastic Association completes its realignment of schools for the 2013-2015 school years.
First in the ongoing reconfiguration process was the initial placement of schools into one of six divisions, which the AIA Executive Board did on Oct. 23.
Schools, however, had the right to appeal their placement, but had to do so by Oct. 31.
In football, a whopping 51 schools appealed their placement. Some appealed to move up a division, others asked to move down.
Among those appealing from small-town Arizona were Camp Verde (IV to V), Sedona (IV to V), Buckeye (III to IV) and Alchesay (IV to V).
Payson High, with its 750 students was assigned in football and soccer to Division IV along with 41 other schools. All the other PHS sports teams were aligned to Division III.
In Division IV, Tucson Sabino is the largest school with 1,098 students. With 434 pupils, Many Farms is the smallest.
Payson High did not appeal any divisional placements.
Yesterday, Nov. 15, the AIA made public divisional assignments based on approvals and denials of those schools that appealed.
Camp Verde’s appeal in football was approved, as was Alchesay’s.
The appeals from Sedona and Buckeye were denied, as was one from Mingus (III to IV).
Those that were denied, however, can appeal to the AIA Executive Board, which will make its final divisional placement on Nov. 29.
Once that is accomplished, the placement process begins all over again with the AIA aligning schools in their respective sections inside each division.
Like in divisional placements, schools may appeal their sectional placement, which must be done by Jan. 10, 2013. Aligning schools in sections is where the process turns very interesting for Payson High and some other rural Arizona schools.
Speculation is that in football, Division IV will be divided into six sections of six to eight schools each.
Payson High could be involved in a bit of déjà vu all over again if the Longhorns are assigned, as some believe, in Section 2.
That would be a leap into yesteryear because the other schools in the section would most likely be most of those that were in the now-defunct 3A conference East Region — Blue Ridge, Show Low and Snowflake.
Also, Winslow and Mingus could be assigned to Section 2.
For years, Blue Ridge, Show Low, Snowflake and Payson were close rivals in the East Region until an AIA realignment three years ago abolished the conference/region alignment and replaced it with divisions and sections.
The East maintained a reputation as one of the strongest in the state in football, churning out state champion after state champion and earning the nickname “Beasts of the East.”
On Jan. 22, 2013, the AIA will finalize section placements which will be made public a day later.
On Feb. 19 in an Executive Board meeting, computer generated schedules will be approved for games from the fall of 2013 to the spring of 2015.
Computer generated scheduling opens a whole other can of worms for the AIA, member schools, athletic directors and coaches.
That’s because, two years ago when the AIA went to divisions and sections, as well as computer scheduling, schools did not always play every other fellow section member because the sections were so large.
Coaches complained saying that not playing every fellow section member made crowning a true section champion difficult, if not impossible.
Also, when it came to postseason voting for all-section honorees, coaches expressed their frustrations because they were being asked to vote for players they possibly had never seen play.
With the smaller sections that will exist in the reconfiguration, ones closer to the numbers of the former regions, each team will now play every other team in its section, thus solving some of the coaches’ complaints.
Next season, the AIA will use a computer to be sure each team has at least one game against fellow section members.
Non-section games will also be computer scheduled with feedback and requests from coaches and athletic directors.
The meeting to schedule non-section or “requested” games will be open to coaches who will be allowed to lobby for the games they’d like on their schedules.
What has yet to be decided is just how many section games should be played and whether there should be home-and-away series, in sports like basketball, or single games vs. sectional foes.