The posturing and rebuffs ended on Thursday.
It was the first day that the computer portion of football scheduling began. The Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) released the scheduling tool to the athletic directors and now they can start scheduling their freedom games.
Maybe this online version of trying to find a match for non-section games will go smoother than the feeling out process because it has been a very hard thing to do up to this point for most of the top-tier Division I programs.
“I’ve asked 33 schools, even five out-of-state schools, and no one will play us,” Chandler athletic director Dave Shapiro said. “We have (Peoria) Centennial, St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) and (Sierra Vista) Buena and I’m still searching. I’ve asked multiple people a second time and it’s still no. I haven’t even had any time to even consider the other sports.”
Chandler entered Thursday’s process with three games scheduled other than its five sectional games, Mountain Pointe has two out-of-state games to go along with its four sectional games with no possible agreements in the works and Desert Vista had one in Mission Hills (Calif.,) to open the year while talking to Pinnacle and Boulder Creek after some previous agreements fell through.
Shapiro compared the process so far to being like the bad prom date who gets turned down time and time again and Mountain Pointe athletic director Ian Moses said it was like passing notes in class stating, “Do you like me? Check yes or no.”
While they were making light of it, it has the coaches and athletic directors a bit leery of the process. Of course, they didn’t like the previous two-year block where a computer did most of the schedule other than two freedom games.
So there has been a clear trend of dissatisfaction even though the AIA went away from the computer scheduling as the coaches hoped for after the last two-year block.
Right now, the computer scheduling — which focused on cutting down travel and now teams are having to look out of state to find games — looks better and better.
“I had trouble with getting two games secured so I knew this was going to be a difficult situation,” said Shapiro, who added he tried package deals where he’d agree to scheduling three sports with one school as long as one is football. “We need to go back to the old system where everyone gets in a room and hammers it out.”
There will be time for that if the initial process ends up being as difficult as the months leading up to it.
AIA media relations director Brian Bolitho said once the two-week period of attempting to schedule games via the computer ends further steps will be taken.
The region chairs will then step in to help fill schedules.
Those meetings are to take place between March 21 and March 28 with athletic directors open to attend.
Maybe that is what it will take to get it all moving in the right direction, because up to this point it has been nothing but a frustrating process.
Several factors are at play here.
Coaches want the best of both worlds. They want to play a good team to help their strength of schedule, but don’t want to play too many good teams in fear of going 7-3 or 6-4 instead of 8-2 or better. Plus, Division II programs, several of which petitioned down from DI, are not looking to take on the big boys.
Mountain Pointe, which will have the Thunder, Dobson, Brophy and Corona del Sol in its section, played five top 10 teams last year and made it to the state title game, but it is not an ideal situation each year.
“The ADs make the schedule, but the coaches drive the bus in this,” Moses said. “They have their relationships and they are contacting each other, but there a lot of maybes or we’ll sees. They don’t want to commit for sure until they know who might come calling that might be a better chance at a win.”
Another factor is the fact that there are only 29 Division I teams now compared to 40 a year ago after the AIA allowed many of the lower tier schools drop down to Division II so they can be more competitive.
It has left a lesser “dating pool” if you will, and harder to make an even match.
Although not everyone sees it that way.
“I’m not sure how 29 teams can be having issues, seems to me that if they only want to play within their division somebody has to decide to play somebody,” Bolitho said via email. “We’ve heard that there are schools that have locked up their freedom games, while there are others that have not.”
The second step in the process has started with hopes of the cat-and-mouse games ending with one click on the mouse.
Just don’t count on it.
“There might be some ADs out there that have everything sewn up and ready to go,” Moses said. “From what I am hearing, the top-tier teams are struggling and I know no one wants to play us. Something has to give.”
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