“Home, sweet home” always sounds pretty nice.
It has a warm, welcoming ring to it.
Too bad Tucson prep football teams don’t get to hear it often.
Much has been written on the subject of the Phoenix playoff bias during the state playoffs, where Valley teams get to travel mere minutes to a “neutral” site, while Tucson teams ride in uncomfortable buses for hours.
I agree with pretty much everything I’ve read on the matter, with one exception. Numbers are lacking.
I like hard numbers, statistics, and so on; it is my weakness and one of the things that makes sportswriting enjoyable.
And so, good people, here is a quick rundown of what I consider to be an inequality on par with the height difference between Shaq and Danny Devito.
“Neutral” site games begin in the semifinals. Tucson-area teams are reaching this level of competition with increasing frequency, which is why the Valley bias has become more obvious of late.
Take the case of Canyon Del Oro.
Head coach Pat Nugent’s team went 11-1, beating Prescott at home, and Paradise Valley on its own field before facing Scottsdale Chaparral in the 4A-I semifinals. The Dorados lost to the Firebirds 13-7, ending their 2008 campaign.
The game took place at Phoenix North Canyon High School. By the name of the school alone, it is obvious that the Dorados traveled farther that the Firebirds. How much farther?
Well, Chaparral made it through a no-doubt grueling trek of 19 minutes or 12.47 miles, according to Mapquest.com. The Dorados, on the other hand, drove 2 hours, 2 minutes, or almost 130 miles.
A less-hard number would be preparation time: getting the team to school, gear loaded, buses gased, and so on, so tack on another hour, at the least.
However, for argument’s sake, we’ll just work with the hour and forty-five extra minutes the Dorados spent on the road.
What can you do in an hour and forty-five minutes?
How about watch Finding Nemo the whole way through?
Or ordering an appetizer, a well-done steak, and a dessert at a sit-down restaurant?
Those actually sound rather pleasant, but what CDO most likely did in that 1.75 hours was: sit, listen to iPod, look out window. Repeat.
Not so pleasant, and unfair. The stress of the ride is mentally draining to any team.
That doesn’t even mention fan travel time.
Where should CDO and Chaparral have met?
Well, how about Florence High School?
It is 55.99 miles (56 minutes) from CDO and 70 miles (one hour, 14 minutes) from Chaparral.
I’d venture that a difference of 20 minutes is more fair, but should the Scottsdale crowd object, there’s always Globe High School.
The drive is longer for both, one hour and 41 minutes for CDO, one hour and 39 minutes for the Firebirds, but the difference is a scant two minutes.
If one team has to sit on the bus losing steam for nearly two hours, so should the other. It’s as simple as that.
What is wrong with visiting the out-of-the-way towns in search of actual, real neutrality? All are members of the Arizona Interscholastic Association, and as such are readily available for playoff use.
While it will never be known whether time on the road contributed to CDO’s loss, Ironwood Ridge thought the inequity was important enough to call for a change in location, to Chandler High School, for its 5A-II semifinal game against Peoria Centennial. The original site was less that half an hour from Centennial.
Even with the change, the Nighthawks’ drive from Oro Valley to Chandler was still longer than the Coyotes by half on hour. Ironwood Ridge drove one hour and 26 minutes to Centennial’s 55 minutes.
A better location: Casa Grande Union High School, almost smack dab in the middle, an hour and 13 minutes drive for Centennial, one hour for Ironwood Ridge.
I found the suggested sites in about 30 minutes. The AIA has been around for more than 80 years. Granted, the Internet helped me, and that has only been around for about 15 years.
I don’t really think that Tucson schools should separate from the organization like some believe; I’d like to see a Tucson school stick it to the Valley. They should have the chance to do it fairly.