Arizona Interscholastic Association's plan doesn't compute

Arizona Interscholastic Association's plan doesn't compute

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Arizona Interscholastic Association's plan doesn't compute

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How can we put it kindly, our reaction to hearing that the Arizona Interscholastic Association will use a computer to determine section placements for the 29 football teams in Division I?

IS THE AIA NUTS? DIDN’T IT LEARN ITS LESSON THE LAST TWO YEARS? ALL THE COMPUTER KNOWS ABOUT COMPETITION IS THAT IT’S A NOUN.

OK, so we got a little worked up. It’s just that the high school governing body took a big step forward when it allowed teams and/or schools to appeal their division placement, and we’d hate to see that progress torpedoed by a thoughtless computer.

Here’s the problem: According to AIA Director of Business Media Brian Bolitho, the sole criteria the computer will use to determine the sections is geography; i.e. schools south of U.S. 60 will be in a cluster, West Valley schools will be lumped together, etc.

That’s understandable if reducing travel costs is the primary goal. But with Yuma and Tucson schools no longer in Division I, the longest bus ride for any team will be about an hour — and that’s once every two years.

So why in the world should the location of a freeway determine the sectional placements?

The primary concern should be competitive balance, both in and between the sections. But when the only information plugged into the computer is a school address, that balance can and likely will be compromised.

A better solution would have been to form a committee comprised of coaches and athletic directors from Division I schools and let them determine the sections. Unfortunately, the process is too far along for a U-turn; the AIA’s executive board will review the computer’s work on Monday and release the sectional breakdowns Tuesday afternoon. Schools will have the ability to appeal their placement, but it’s unlikely there will be significant changes.

But in the interest of public service — and with the help of a friend — we’ve come up with a sectional plan that we’re sure makes far more sense than anything the computer will spit out. And we’re offering it to the AIA, free of charge.

A couple of points:

First, our sections put competition first yet still take into account a school’s location. Second, rather than create five sections — four of six teams, one of five teams — we prefer a four-section format. This creates a simple yet effective playoff qualifying format — the top two teams in each section are automatically in, and power rankings determine the next eight spots — and the larger sections cut down on the number of freedom games each school has to schedule.

As you’ll notice, each of our sections includes three traditionally strong programs, thereby creating competitive balance rather than having, say, one section with five powerhouses and another section with only one. That should eliminate the annual end-of-the-season whining from some coach who is certain his fourth-place team deserves to be in the playoffs more so than the second-place team in another section.

The only thing we haven’t done is name our sections. So for now, we’ll just count them off:

Section 1: Mesa Desert Ridge, Mesa Red Mountain, Mesa, Mesa Mountain View, Mesa Skyline, Mesa Dobson, Scottsdale Desert Mountain.

What it accomplishes: All five Mesa schools are in the same section. Desert Mountain doesn’t fit geographically, but that will be the case no matter where it’s placed.

Section 2: Chandler, Chandler Basha, Gilbert Perry, Gilbert Highland, Gilbert, Tempe Corona del Sol, Chandler Hamilton.

What it accomplishes: It makes sense on the map and keeps the powerhouse Chandler teams in the same section.

Section 3: Phoenix Mountain Pointe, Phoenix Desert Vista, Laveen Cesar Chavez, Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor, Phoenix North, Glendale Mountain Ridge, Goodyear Millennium.

What it accomplishes: This section is a bit all over the map, but again, we’re not talking three-hour bus rides. Plus, it gives a struggling program like North a chance to be competitive and eases Cesar Chavez’s foray into Division I.

Section 4: Phoenix Brophy Prep, Avondale Westview, Phoenix Pinnacle, Phoenix North Canyon, Anthem Boulder Creek, Phoenix Horizon, Surprise Valley Vista, Phoenix Maryvale.

What it accomplishes: Brophy is the class of this eight-team section, but Westview and Pinnacle are solid programs, and there’s balance in the rest of the section.

There you go, AIA.

You can thank us later.

Reach Bordow at scott.bordow@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-7996. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/sBordow.

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