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AIA exploring changes to football playoff fields

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Posted: Monday, December 17, 2012 4:49 pm

The newly-created, unbalanced football divisions could necessitate a change in the number of playoff qualifiers for the 2013-2015 scheduling block.

The majority of the Phoenix Metro schools have dropped classification levels to become more competitive, resulting in a size gap between divisions.

Beginning next fall, Division I will be down to only 29 teams, while Division II (44 teams) and Division III (48) have ballooned.

Paradise Valley coach Donnie Yantis introduced a proposal to the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s (AIA) board members at its monthly executive board meeting last Monday, which would increase the size of the Division II and III playoff fields to account for additional competition.

He recommended the creation of a 24-team playoff — up from its current field of 16 — similar to what a couple baseball and basketball tournaments have adopted.

However, an alternative option could keep those tournaments at 16 while reducing the number of Division I berths to 12 because of its smaller size.

Chuck Schmidt, the AIA’s associate executive director, said there are several different options on the table in addition to those two, one of which includes maintaining the status quo of 16 teams per football tournament bracket.

There is also the option of shortening the season and allowing every team into the playoffs, like Indiana does with basketball.

“We’re going to have a dialogue (Tuesday) with the football sports advisory committee and I think there will be some ideas that come out of there, whether it’s to increase the number of, let’s say, Division II and III, or create a percentage of teams which should make the playoffs,” Schmidt said. “Then that would be utilized across the board.”

AIA Director Harold Slemmer noted during Monday’s meeting that Arizona allows more teams into its postseason tournaments than the national average.

The decrease in the number of Division I playoff teams would undoubtedly be an unpopular one, but Schmidt said the dialogue should not come as a surprise to the coaches. A more concrete plan could be presented to the executive board in January.

“That has been on the board, that has been a part of the dialogue with the sports advisory committees that this would have to be addressed, Schmidt said. “That’s the process we’re in right now.”

In other developments from Monday’s meeting: A formal proposal for the oft-debated 50-mile transfer rule is coming together. While the distance is still being discussed, a laid-out plan could appear at the AIA’s executive board meeting on Jan. 22, 2013. If adopted, transfers would be forced to sit for a year if they move within the determined radius, although there would be an appeals process for extenuating circumstances.

The sectional placements for 2013-2015 will be released on Tuesday, with schools allowed the ability to appeal their spots.

Contact writer: (480) 898-6834 or Follow his blog at, or find him on Twitter @Kyle_Odegard.

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Jason P. Skoda
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