Bordow: AIA listening to schools about football classification

Bordow: AIA listening to schools about football classification

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Bordow: AIA listening to schools about football classification

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Thought you should know about two things that happened this week regarding the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s plan to devise a different method for classifying football programs.

First, I talked to a prominent coach Monday who, along with other coaches, recently met with AIA officials to discuss the idea of using participation numbers to determine division placement. This coach, who has been critical of the AIA in the past, said he was encouraged by the fact AIA officials truly seemed interested in the coaches’ opinions and ideas.

That’s good to hear. My fear was that the AIA would rubber-stamp the participation numbers idea without truly considering feedback from administrators and coaches. But from everything I’m hearing, there seems to be an open dialogue going on.

Second, I sat in on a meeting Tuesday with athletic directors from the East Valley and Scottsdale. In the meeting, Mesa Public Schools Athletic Drector Steve Hogen introduced a formula that would determine division placement based on several factors: Enrollment, percentage of students eligible for free and reduced lunch, participation numbers, track record over five years, etc.

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The response was mostly positive, but several administrators said there’d need to be a human element in determining classification. For example, in Hogen’s formula, Scottsdale Saguaro would be in Division I primarily based on its success in the past. But most of those victories have come against Division III opponents. Using some sort of committee in concert with the mathematical formula would help insure fairness.

The administrators also strongly desired a return to some sort of region set-up. Playing teams in the same geographical area, they said, would help build rivalries and increase gate revenue, no small matter when the AIA this summer passed on more of its operating costs to the schools.

The AIA had planned to announce division placement in its Nov. 17 executive board meeting. I’ll be surprised if that happens now, given all the ideas and information it has to process. Timing wouldn’t be an issue had the AIA started this conversation six months ago rather than last month, but the important thing going forward is getting it right.

As several administrators said Tuesday, there’s no one formula that fits all schools. There might need to be two classification models: One for big schools and a second for smaller schools. Travel costs have to be factored in, as well as some districts wanting their teams in the same division and section to create a city championship.

Figuring that all out will be an extraordinarily difficult process. But there’s a far worse scenario:

Doing nothing.

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