After formulating its Strategic Plan two years ago, the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) looked into restructuring the organization to improve both finances and competitiveness. One of the issues it encountered was that too many divisions existed in Arizona school sports. Arizona had seven divisions, and in comparison with other states, there were more divisions here.
“The AIA wanted to bring the number of championships down, which will in turn save them some money,” Salt River High School Athletic Director Shawn Lytle said. “They came up with a new restructuring plan.”
Lytle said the plan organizes the divisions based on the individual sports. He said a survey was sent out to the athletic directors around the state to list the sports each school planned to participate in for the next two years.
“In football they are having six divisions, in volleyball five divisions, and in basketball, baseball, softball, wrestling and track they are having four divisions,” he explained. “Football for us will be Division VI. Volleyball will be Division V; and for basketball, baseball, softball, track and wrestling we will be a Division IV school. So basically they took the number of schools and figured out how to divide them up.”
Lytle said it might be confusing, because in past years Salt River was 1A, but now it is Division IV. There will also be changes for Mesa Public Schools, including Mountain View and Westwood, which are now Division I.
“All the schools already played before and before in 1A; plus the addition of 20 schools are who we will play against this year,” he said. “Before we had ‘regions’; not anymore. Now they are ‘sections,’ and there are three sections for every division. In basketball we are a Division IV school, in Section 1. It will all be based on power points, which 2A through 5A had already been using, and in eight-man [team] you cannot go play an 11-man team.”
Lytle said there will no longer be any regional tournaments, but there will be a sectional tournament for basketball. The top eight teams in the section based on power points will go to a sectional tournament, and the top four in the section automatically go to state; and now they are taking 24 teams. “There will be 12 automatic qualifiers for state and 12 at-large qualifiers for state, which will get in through the sectional,” Lytle said. “In other sports it will purely be based on power points and how you do throughout the season. The scheduling is done in two-year blocks.”
Another goal of the superintendent’s council is to cut down on team travel, Lytle said, so the AIA decision to go to computerized scheduling removed school athletic directors from the scheduling process.
“Now, for example, the AIA gave us 14 basketball games, and we had the ability to pick up freedom game,” he explained. “Some schools added the freedom games, but it depended on their budgets. For the majority of our sports, we picked up extra games because it is easy for us to find teams to play.”