Starting this fall, high school athletic programs across Arizona will face additional fees to participation in postseason play.
The Arizona Interscholastic Association implemented a fee requiring certain sports to pay to enter playoff and postseason games. Schools will have to start paying the fees — approved by the AIA on May 19 — beginning the fall sports season.
Spiritline, wrestling, cross-country, golf, badminton and tennis will now all have to pay to participate in postseason tournaments. Spiritlines will be charged $250 to enter the state qualifier and $350 to enter the state finals. Wrestling teams will be charged $100 to enter their sectional tournaments
Cross-country, golf and tennis will see $50 increases. Cross-country teams will have to pay $50 to enter the sectional meet and $100 to enter the state meet. However, individuals who qualify on their own but not as part of a team will not be charged.
Golf teams will be charged $50 per individual or $250 for a team of five. Tournament attendees of the state golf tournament will be charged for a $15 day pass or a $25 all-tournament pass.
Badminton and tennis teams will be charged $50 per team for entry into their respective singles or doubles tournaments with “an entry of one singles and one doubles team, or only a singles or doubles team is considered a team,” according to an AIA memo.
Additionally, a $100 fee will be charged for every out-of-state team participating in an in-state tournament and a $3 charge for assignment of officials for regular-season and invitational tournaments will also be added.
The fees are paid by the program and not the individual student.
AIA spokesperson Brian Bolitho said the reason for the price increase is because the AIA, a nonprofit organization, needs to break even on its expenses, and the profits of the revenue-producing sports like football and basketball do not cover the costs of the other sports.
“Those football and basketball tournaments just aren’t enough to sustain the needed revenue to cover those expenses,” he said. “Really, the individual tournament fee is there just to cover the expense of that tournament and make it, so we’re breaking even on those.”
Bolitho said an IRS tax statement indicates the AIA faces a $519,000 budget shortfall, and an increase in fees is one way of recouping the money.
Mesa Mountain View tennis coach Lori Flake was surprised about the new tournament fees when reached for comment, as she said she hadn’t been informed about any of the fee increases.
Flake doesn’t see the fees as being a problem for her sport, but she still isn’t happy about them.
“Because the fees aren’t huge, it’s not prohibitive in our players going,” she said. “If we could do away with those fees, that would be my first choice.”
Although the fees reach across every AIA school, there is some worry it will widen the gap between bigger schools with larger athletic budgets and smaller schools with fewer economic resources.
“There’s already a gap between the big schools and the small schools and this is only going to make it worse,” said Campo Verde football coach Max Ragsdale. “If I’m out at Ash Fork or Fredonia or out on the reservation and money is already kind of tight, this is only going to make it tighter.”
The AIA also increased the pay for referees in addition to the instituted tournament fees. Referees for volleyball, baseball, track and field, soccer, football, swimming, softball and wrestling will earn extra $10 per event for varsity sport and an extra $5 per event for junior varsity and freshman sports.
Referees are considered independent contractors and can work for any organization that wants to pay them. In addition to the AIA, that includes city leagues, charter schools and club teams or any other league that needs officials.
“All of them draw from the same pool of officials,” said Gary Whelchel, state commissioner of officials. “If you’re an official, you’re an official and you make choices to where to officiate. There’s all kinds of things happening out there, and so we needed to be a little more competitive to at least entice those officials to continue with us.”
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