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An overwhelming sense of the let’s-just-rip-it-up-and-start-over mindset has haunted local head coaches in the past few weeks as the final sports season of the “old way” comes to a close.

Even coaches in off-season mode have tossed and turned, had a few nightmares and eventually lost sleep over the Arizona Interscholastic Association executive board’s decision to crumple up and throw in the trash can all conference and region alignments. The alternative you might ask?

Let’s combine what once was seven conferences into four divisions, split each division into three sections, and assign a schedule that has almost no games within a school’s respective division, or section. Did you just fall off your chair?

At any given school, the football team could be in one division or section, the track and field team could be in another division or section, and the soccer team could be in something completely different as well.

Now, to be fair to all sports that aren’t football, basketball or baseball — my favorite of course — most individual sports began the change this last school year.

A few local track and field coaches, who will remain unnamed here, basically said this new way is “ridiculous” and almost “unfair” to everyone involved.

Gone are the region championships. Gone is the team aspect of an individual sport and gone is the fair playing field golf, tennis, track and field, swimming and cross country used to enjoy.

Team sports ... it’s your turn next year. Sorry in advance for causing another nightmare.

In the old days, which will officially cease to exist by the end of May, coaches could give their players a solid goal to achieve besides a state title. A region title.

Not everyone is good enough to win a state title. The greatest thing about sports is we do keep score, we do hang banners, and we do celebrate our athletes. And by the great constitution of sports we each will have official bragging rights for our favorite teams when they win. Now, it’s as if a big portion of that celebration, and those bragging rights, have been removed.

In basketball, I’m all for having only four state champions instead of the normal seven. It’s become too diluted. But, how fair is it to all the other sports that my boys could in fact qualify for a sectional tournament next season, which is just like a region tournament, and no other sport will be able to?

Basketball, to the best of my knowledge, is the only team sport that will have a sectional tournament at the end of its season. Why? Well, to be frank ... because the AIA wants to make money.

Uh oh, I said it.

What else is unfair? How about that my boys at Sedona Red Rock High School will get to play games next year on its regular season schedule against schools with over 1,800 students enrolled, when mine has about 485?

Yes, our travel will go down immensely. Most road trips will be an hour or so, which is better than the two-plus, or even four-hour trips some sports teams take these days.

But, since my team lives in an area where bigger schools are located, I will play them, and it’s quite possible that even if we finish over .500, I could miss the state playoffs entirely because I didn’t get to play some of the teams that are like me, that have similar enrollment to our demographic.

One school in Northern Arizona, which wanted to remain unnamed, is going to save almost $7,000 in travel budget in the 2011-2012 season, but will lose over $30,000 in gate receipts because they no longer will have their rival on the schedule.

Did you fall off the chair again?

It also feels like the AIA is making decisions based on the bigger, more metro area schools, instead of including everyone.

Sorry big guys, but just because you have to travel 45 minutes across town and hate it, or maybe come north once in a while, doesn’t mean the whole state should suffer, or change for you. Talk to the folks in the 2A North and see what they have to say about your travel tears.

Didn’t the city of Sedona just institute a bullying law? Can we do that in Phoenix too?

There were several coaches I talked with before writing this article, but I chose not to put them in because I would need a few pages, not inches, to write it all.

I’m interested to see how things play out next season, but I will say this: The athletic directors, schools and school districts asked and pleaded to the AIA to make a change because the state’s ridiculous budget is only getting thinner.

How does the saying go? Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.


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