The Arizona Interscholastic Association executive board has adopted bylaws that could change both the large and small school playing landscapes around the state.
The bylaw changes will allow teams to petition the AIA to move up or down from one division to another.
Which means, teams that are not competitive in their current division, could ask to move down and teams that dominate could ask to move up.
For example, suppose the Lady Longhorns basketball team — which is now aligned in D-III playing the likes of Show Low, Thatcher and Camp Verde — dominates, winning most games by double-digit margins.
PHS could ask the AIA for the right to move up to the more competitive D-II. playing larger student population schools like Tucson Catalina, Queen Creek and Shadow Mountain.
But if the Lady Longhorns were being blown out frequently in D-III competition, the school could ask to move down a division to D-IV where Payson would compete against smaller schools such as Williams, Ajo and Mayer.
Because PHS sports teams do not have a history of being either overly dominant or less than competitive, the bylaw change will probably not directly affect any Payson High teams.
There are schools around the state, however, who could petition to move up or down.
LaJolla Community High School is currently 0-6 in Division II football and has been outscored 310-46. School leaders there might petition to move down to D-III to play smaller enrollment schools.
In Division II football, Caesar Chavez is 6-0 and has outscored foes by a whopping 280-35 margin. Because most D-II schools are not giving Chavez much competition, the school could ask the AIA to move up to D-I to play gridiron juggernauts such as Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe.
Proponents of the bylaw change say it will allow teams to be more competitive and give athletes more opportunities to succeed.
Opponents, however, argue that such moves could cause an imbalance in the number of teams in each of the divisions.
Teams may petition to move either as entire programs or individual sports.
To move down a division, the team must meet a set of criteria to be announced soon.
After a school makes an appeal, the AIA Sports Advisory Committee reviews it and approves or denies.
Any denials may be taken to the AIA executive board for review.
In addition to the executive board adopting bylaw changes to allow teams to move up or down a division, members voted against a measure that would have automatically moved private schools up a division.
Because private schools can draw students from a much larger population base than small, rural schools — say for instance, St. Johns — private school teams sometimes dominate, which prompted a call for change.
While the measure did not pass, it could be revised and again put before the executive board.