With alignment, AIA hopes to cut costs, raise rivalries - The Explorer: Sports

With alignment, AIA hopes to cut costs, raise rivalries

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Posted: Monday, August 16, 2010 11:00 pm | Updated: 8:20 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association is making major realignment changes that may alter the landscape of high school sports in Arizona.

Beginning with the 2011-'12 school year, team sport championships are being reduced from more than 120 to 71.

"Reduced travel costs and out-of-school time will have a major impact," said AIA executive director Harold Slemmer. "With all the games and cost of revenues, we've priced ourselves out because of all the tournaments."

In football, the five divisions will decrease from seven state titles to six, one of the smaller differences. Basketball titles will be cut from seven to four.

The measures were approved in May by a unanimous vote, and Slemmer admitted they've become serious considerations due to the economy.

"There's not a lot of money to spend on travel," Slemmer said. "I think we'll save some school districts significant money."

AIA is going to use a computer block to reschedule geographically for schools close to each other.

Canyon Del Oro opens the 2010 football season at Ironwood Ridge on Friday, Aug. 27. Slemmer expects them to face each other every year from now in football, and in most sports.

"They're right next to each other in all sports," Slemmer said. "I'd like to think (the realignment) would heighten rivalries."

Changes take place in swimming and wrestling as early as the 2010-'11 school year.

Each Arizona school will be reclassified into divisions based on school size and the number of teams that participate in each sport. The smaller schools will be in Division V, while the larger ones will be Division I.

"Think about the NCAA," Slemmer said. "A school could be in Division II in basketball and Division III in swimming."

"We wanted to get a consensus and an agreement on these AIA changes. We're trying to show that it's best for the membership."

"The AIA will make it more competitive to win championships," said Bill Lang, girls volleyball coach at Ironwood Ridge. "The 5A-II watered down competition.

"There are seven titles for Arizona volleyball. Texas doesn't even have that many championships. Now we'll have five."

Current 1A schools such as Green Fields might be competing against 2A schools like Pusch Ridge that have significantly higher enrollment.

"It's going to really hurt the 1A schools," said Green Fields coach Tom Danehy.

"Immaculate Heart has about 60 (kids), while Pusch Ridge has 300 (kids). It's an insurmountable difference. Neither of these schools will want to play each other. The AIA will say you have to play."

How are the kids going to be affected?

"It'll hurt the rural kid the most," Danehy said.

Slemmer says that when people understand the process, they'll like it better.

"We've come up with a combination of things that we think will work best for everyone," Slemmer said. "The feedback has been extremely positive."

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