At first, I found the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s idea of keeping the Sollenberger Classic football double-header alive intriguing, playing again a week after capturing one state championship.
But the more I thought about what it is planning to bounce off of the football coaches, the less I like it.
I know it’s a tough time financially, and the AIA wasn’t able to secure sponsorship to keep the Sollenberger games to start the season.
But it feels like the AIA is scrambling.
An ultimate championship challenge, pitting two champions against each other – Division I vs. Division II and Division III vs. Division IV – has too many potential problems, I believe.
It underscores one championship. It is asking players and coaches who spent an exhaustive week getting ready for the biggest game of the year to turn around and do it all over again. By then, the players are pretty beat up.
It’s like in state track, asking those championship athletes to flip the switch to high gear a second week in a row. They’re already pretty spent, physically and emotionally.
And what about those winter sports coaches waiting on football players to help their teams?
“They are always preaching, ‘You can’t cut into winter sports,’ ” Peoria Centennial Athletic Director Brett Palmer said. “Now, you’re extending it even more. I don’t like the idea.
“Plus, teams are going to be banged up playing that D.I schedule and the playoffs.”
There are only 17 Division I teams next season. Most of those schools have gauntlet schedules.
Phoenix Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said he is not opposed to the AIA’s idea, but he feels there is a reason why Division I is separated from Division II.
“They should join us then,” Vaughan said.
Mesa Desert Ridge coach Jeremy Hathcock agrees.
“If Division II wants to play Division I, why didn’t they petition up?” Hathcock said. “If they don’t like that, then come up and play us. I don’t want to draw the line in the sand, but Division I is like the SEC now.
“We want to be state champs. But now what? Are we going to be Divisions II champions, too? What are we trying to do here?”
If the AIA wants to keep Sollenberger’s spirit alive and keep these games going and if it feels the best hope of breaking even is staging it after champions have been crowned, it might be better off pitting Division I and II champions against top out-of-state teams.
That is something fans, and players for that matter, can get more geared up for.
“I’d rather play a champion from another state,” Vaughan said. “It would have been great the year we finished fifth in the nation (going 14-0 in 2013) to have played a (Bellflower, Calif.) St. John Bosco (which went 16-0 that season).”