An action-packed Arizona Interscholastic Association Executive Board meeting on Monday brought to light several proposed changes that could have big impacts on the future high school athletics landscape.
Three major issues were discussed, perhaps the most significant being a possible change to the transfer rule in Arizona.
All three issues will be presented to the conferences for further discussion, with concrete decisions needed by mid-September.
As it stands, an athlete who changes domiciles of residency can be immediately eligible at a new school if he or she moves into the new school’s attendance-boundary zone. A proposed change would make any athlete who moves within a 50-mile radius of his or her current domicile automatically ineligible for a year at a new school.
The other main subjects were the proposal to force private, charter and parochial schools to move up at least one classification, and the possibility of allowing perennially-struggling programs to move down classifications. Here is a more in-depth look at these three possibilities:
AIA Executive Director Harold Slemmer referenced an Ohio stipulation that says all transfers are ineligible if an athlete moves within 50 miles of his or her original domicile.
Any similar bylaw enacted by Arizona schools would greatly curtail the practice of transfers for athletic reasons, which has become rampant in recent years. Ohio has an appeals process but it’s too early to tell how an Arizona amendment would be written. Slemmer noted that the 50-mile distance could be altered.
He said casual feedback has been positive.
“I didn’t talk to anybody that didn’t think it was a good idea,” Slemmer said.
The second major proposal brought forth by the Sports Equity Committee would force private, charter and parochial schools to move up a division from where its enrollment size originally places that school. Because private schools aren’t confined to an attendance boundary, these schools often have more success in athletics than public schools — especially rural Arizona schools in the lower divisions — and this is a proposal to level that playing field and eliminate private schools from the lowest division.
Fourteen representatives from these “select” schools were on hand to voice their displeasure with the proposal. Arizona Lutheran athletic director Doug Meyer, Horizon Honors athletic director Nate Agostini and Scottsdale Christian boys basketball coach Bob Fredericks spoke in opposition of the proposal to the executive board, contending that the athletic advantages are overblown.
“I don’t understand why people think we are at a competitive advantage,” Agostini said. “I’ll be honest, we have one, maybe two, state championships, and that was coed spiritline. Other than that, we have not made a final four in anything. We just don’t dominate.”
Meyer said the current open-enrollment state law allows students to choose any high school after eighth grade, which levels the playing field. The lowest-enrolled schools would move down when a private school is bumped up.
The third change from the Sports Equity Committee proposes a way for struggling sports programs to move down classification levels. According to the proposal, any team that finishes in the bottom eight of the power rankings for the three previous seasons would be allowed to appeal down from its current division.
The original decision was the bottom four schools, but after discussion, bumped up to eight. Slemmer also said the number of concurrent seasons teams must finish in the bottom eight could be reduced to two.
Any move down would not force the top-enrollment or most successful schools from the lower division to move up. Any team would still have the option to appeal up in a given sport.