For those of you who think that I unfairly pick on the Arizona Interscholastic Association for what I consider to be a disastrous "reorganization" plan, you'll love this.
The AIA took a reasonable concern—that of rising transportation costs—and used it to gut a system that had worked splendidly for several decades, creating in its place a monstrosity that has proved devastating to small, midsize and rural schools across the state. The leaders of the AIA then adopted a bunker mentality, claiming that any criticism of them and their ridiculous reorganization was isolated, unfounded and/or fueled by a sensationalistic media.
Well, maybe not. The Arizona Republic, which, in my opinion, has been waaaaay too nice to the AIA over the years, commissioned a survey of coaches and athletic directors around the state. The results have got to be stunning to the members of the AIA.
The AIA's leaders, in their decidedly finite collective wisdom, first did away with season-ending conference tournaments, and then combined multiple conferences into ridiculously large mega-sections. They put 20 or more teams in each section and limited the number of games each team could play to 18, making it impossible to play every other team in the section. After drastically slashing the number of teams or individuals that could go to state in each sport, they then instituted a mathematically flawed "power point" system to determine state eligibility, effectively rendering the sections moot.
(I've never been to the AIA headquarters in Phoenix, but if they don't have a big-ass portrait of Rube Goldberg in their lobby, they're missing out on a great opportunity.)
The girls' basketball team that I coach went 18-0 in the regular season this year. I thought that would earn the kids a nice banner to hang in the gym. But, it was argued, because there are no longer any conferences, we didn't win the conference title. And because there were 21 teams in our section, and we were limited by the AIA to 18 games, we didn't win the section championship, because we didn't play everybody in our section. All I know is that we played every team they told us to play and beat every one of them. That should count for something, but apparently, it doesn't.
Finally, in a coup de grace (if coup de grace means pouring gasoline on the fire), the AIA had a computer schedule every game in every sport for every school in every section in the state. The results, not surprisingly, were horrifying. Gigantic schools were playing tiny schools. Cholla and Amphi were scheduled to play each other twice last season in basketball—and did so on back-to-back nights. Some schools were scheduled to play four or even five basketball games in one week (when two is the norm). I would make a joke about the AIA's computer being a Commodore 64, but it was probably more like an Altair.
Anyway, when The Republic asked whether the AIA's computer scheduling was effective, 21 percent said yes, while nearly 70 percent said no. Those who responded positively are almost certainly from large-size schools that got to feast on weaker competition.
About one-fourth (25.7 percent) of the respondents approved of the AIA's draconian slashing of state championships from seven classes to four for basketball, baseball and softball. (I'm stunned and disappointed that the number is that high. I can't imagine why anybody would be in favor of severely limiting kids' opportunities to experience success.) Sixty-four percent disapproved of the across-the-board reduction.
It actually gets worse for the AIA. Only 13.6 percent of the respondents approved of the dumbass move of replacing small conferences (with decades-old geographic and historic rivalries) with large sections. A whopping 77.9 percent disapproved.
And here's the killer: A pathetic 22.9 percent believe that the AIA has the best interests of student-athletes in mind when it makes its decisions, while nearly two-thirds (64.8 percent) of coaches and athletic directors either disagree or strongly disagree with that statement.
I don't think that the people at the top of the AIA are evil. I think they've got a couple of deeply ingrained errors in their thinking. They incorrectly believe that they know what's best for everybody, and somewhere along the line, they forgot that they work for the schools (and the coaches and the athletes), and not the other way around. That "best interest of the student-athlete" thing should be paramount.
There is a slight glimmer of hope. A committee has proposed dumping the computer scheduling and going back to conferences instead of mega-sections. Even if these changes are adopted, the AIA's current nightmare scenario will drag on for another year before any changes are made.
AIA head Harold Slemmer told The Republic, "It's like putting an innovative car together. After the first model, there are changes to make the second model better."
Actually, the AIA had a Honda Accord that maybe needed an oil change. It scrapped that and replaced it with a Yugo that costs more, breaks down all the time and seats about half as many passengers. That's not innovation; that's the interscholastic athletic version of New Coke.