The Arizona Interscholastic Association Executive Board has accepted a proposal that would reconfigure the current division-section alignment to more resemble the conference-region format that previously existed for decades.
The proposal will create smaller sections than the ones that can now contain as many as 16 or more schools.
Under the conference-region alignment, regions usually contained six to eight schools and all members played each other at least once. In basketball, softball and baseball, region members met both at home and away.
But 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. Also, scheduling was being done by computer, rather than by AD’s and coaches who were the ones who made sure all section opponents were scheduled.
Coaches complained 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.
Adding more friction was the AIA’s request for coaches to vote on-line rather than in the traditional face-to-face meetings.
Coaches complained computer voting was impersonal and limited debate and the amount of information they could learn about all-section candidates.
With smaller sections, 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 not been 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.
In the current system, most games are computer scheduled with a huge emphasis on travel specifics because the reconfiguration was supposed to be an economic belt tightening to help schools financially.
Under the new system, however, the computers will put more emphasis in scheduling on competitive balance rather than travel costs and mileage.
Officials anticipate that could increase travel costs.
Problems with the configuration and scheduling system that went into effect two years ago surfaced at first among rural schools. With the new alignments, some schools with relatively small student bodies were scheduled to play against those with more than a thousand students.
That rendered the playing field lopsided, frustrated student athletes and prompted an outcry of complaints from coaches and AD’s.
The new system also ended some rivalries that had existed for decades because computers didn’t always schedule rivals against one another.
Former PHS golf coach Bret Morse was among the first to voice concerns over the lost rivalries saying his team no longer played the traditional foes it did when the Longhorns were members of the now defunct 3A East region.
“The kids really looked forward to those rivalries,” Morse once said.
Under the new and revamped system in which coaches and AD’s can have a voice in scheduling non-section games and all section teams play one another at least once, some of the age-old rivalries could be rekindled.