AIA, football coaches continue feud

AIA, football coaches continue feud


AIA, football coaches continue feud


The most heated rivalry in high school sports? That’s easy: The ongoing battle between football coaches and the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

The two parties just can’t seem to get along. The latest spat kicked off when the Arizona Football Coaches Association arranged for Arizona seniors play in an all-star game against southern California seniors on Jan. 21 at Riverside College.

That’s a violation of AIA bylaws 14.7.1 and 14.7.2, which state:

The member schools of the AIA oppose all-star competition during the school year and shall oppose all efforts of any organization, agency or individual to establish such competition.

During the school year, administrators and coaches shall decline any invitation to participate in all-star competition, shall refrain from recommending any student athlete for all-star competition and shall refuse to provide use of any high school facility for all-star competition, unless specifically sanctioned by the Executive Board.

(Seniors can play in all-star games like the Under Armour All-America Game because AIA member schools aren’t involved in the selection process.)

When the AIA learned earlier this week — via a newspaper article — that the game was taking place, Associate Executive Director Chuck Schmidt fired off an e-mail to schools saying there could be sanctions for coaches involved.

That prompted an angry retaliatory e-mail from Tempe Corona del Sol coach Tom Joseph, who said in part, “Any action by AIA would be the great motivator to separate football from AIA.”

Ah, sanctions and threats. The true spirit of high school sports. All that’s missing is the requisite lawyer.

Clearly, the coaches association — known as AzFCA — violated AIA policy. Policy, by the way, that was enacted and approved by member schools in 2005 because they were concerned about having to pull kids from other sports in order to play in an in-season all-star game. In addition, Schmidt said no one from AzFCA came forward and asked for the game to be approved.

“I don’t know why this wasn’t brought to us earlier,” Schmidt said. “Unfortunately, the AzFCA has put the kids in this position. They’re constantly using them as offense against the association.”

Perhaps the AzFCA paid little attention to the bylaws because the AIA didn’t enforce them as recently as last season, when Chandler Hamilton’s Steve Belles, Chandler’s Shaun Aguano and former Scottsdale Saguaro coach John Sanders were on the sidelines for the Semper Fi All-American Bowl at Chase Field in early January.

When asked why the AIA didn’t sanction those coaches for violating the rules, Schmidt said the schools didn’t self-report the violation and added he was personally unaware that they were part of the game.

(OK, but no one at the AIA noticed? That’s hard to imagine unless the entire organization was engaged in a media blackout.)

Belles, who was one of 11 Arizona coaches who planned to coach in the January game, admitted the AzFCA didn’t go through the proper channels and “maybe how we went about it wasn’t to the liking of Chuck Schmidt.”

But, he added, “If egos are put aside for the coaches as well as Chuck Schmidt, I think this is what’s right for the kids.”


The fact is, moving the all-star game from June to January is beneficial to the 30 seniors who are playing and hoping to land a scholarship offer before letter-of-intent day in February. Schmidt and AzFCA executive director Lee Brush need to put aside their personal animosity — in an AIA executive board meeting earlier this year Brush publicly said coaches don’t “trust” Schmidt — and figure out a way for the all-star game to work within the rules.

If that means the AIA needs to schedule an emergency meeting of the executive board, so be it. The AIA will have every reason to feel it’s been backed into a corner by the AzFCA, but this should no longer be about who broke the rules and who’s enforcing them.

“What angers me is the kids wouldn’t be left in limbo had the coaches followed the process,” Schmidt said. “That’s aggravating.”

OK, but what’s done is done. Not doing the right thing because the AzFCA went about this the wrong way is piling one mistake onto another.

And the kids shouldn’t be caught in the middle.

Reach Bordow at scott.bordow! or 602-444-7996. Follow him on Twitter at

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