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For all my complaining about the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s wholesale changes in the last year, I’ve never offered up a solution myself. I’d like to take this month’s version of From the Cheap Seats to address that issue.

Let’s start with divisions and sections. Take the proverbial piece of paper, crumple it up, and start over. Yes, that’s right, begin anew.

How about we go back to the way things were, but with a few minor adjustments to not only make the budget people happy at school districts, but the AIA governing body as well?

The biggest complaint from coaches about the way things are done currently by the AIA boils down to one thought: Not every school sports program is a state championship program.

If they are not, then what do they have to play for? Obviously the love of the sport is the biggest reason, but for those small schools out there, and even a few big ones, sometimes a region championship is their state championship.

Most region championships are attainable if a team works its tail off. It’s also a natural camaraderie between rival schools that has been lost within the new division and section format.

I propose to bring back the 5A, 4A, 3A, 2A and 1A conferences, with each region returning as well.

The biggest issue for the AIA, along with school districts, was affordability. The governing body at the AIA could no longer afford to hold seven state championships in each sport, and multiple region championships. And the districts couldn’t afford to send them.

The AIA already charges schools a ridiculous amount in membership fees, so it couldn’t really raise those any higher, but instead came up with a dastardly plan, not unlike a villain in some superhero comic book that gets foiled in the end. But in this case, the villain wins.

If we realign schools to fit in five conferences, like AIA did it 15 years ago, instead of seven, AIA could make people happier. Up until last school year, the 5A and 4A conferences were split into 5A-I and 5A-II, 4A-I and 4A-II. Eliminate that nonsense.

The 3A had only 29 schools, whereas the 2A had 46. It’s not a good balance. There are about 240-plus schools in Arizona that are members of the AIA, meaning there should be about 48 schools per conference.

Next, since those at the AIA are balancing the conferences, the regions will more than likely need to take on a few more teams.

For instance, instead of the 4A-II Grand Canyon that Mingus Union High School played in for several years with only four other schools, put a few more in there and make it a real conference.

I’m not saying the AIA needs to go crazy like the NCAA is with its super conferences, but a slight adjustment is needed. Even if it has to create a new region or two, just to keep things even, then do it.

If there are 48 schools per conference, that means there should be around six regions per conference.

The way it’s done now, only cross-country and basketball have “section” tournaments, with the rest of the sports having to qualify for state through the power point system alone.

If we have only five conferences, with six to seven regions in each, you would have a region tournament in each conference for each sport.

To help pay for these region tournaments, make sure some of the funds are given back to the schools to help pay for travel, instead of the AIA just lining its pockets.

Last but not least, with 48 schools in each conference, there should be around 24 making the postseason. It’s a crime to watch a few fall sports teams this year knowing most of them won’t make it to the playoffs, because the AIA allows only 16 schools in, despite having nearly 60 in a division.

The other thing is all-region and all-state selections. The current model has coaches voting on players they’ve never even seen play. With sections having up to 20 teams in them, and most schools not playing teams in their section, a vote seems unrepresentative.

The old way was better, with coaches of each respective region getting together at a neutral site to pick a real all-region team.

These new changes would make almost everyone happy, instead of making nearly every coach in the system pull his or her hair out every season on how unfair things are.

Granted, it’s similar to the old way of doing things, but why fix something so dramatically when it isn’t entirely broken? You don’t use a sledge hammer to pound in a 1-inch nail, do you?{jcomments on}

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