AIA overhauls individual state tournaments - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Topstory

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AIA overhauls individual state tournaments

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Posted: Saturday, August 7, 2010 8:00 pm

The Arizona Interscholastic Association announced in April sweeping changes for individual and team state tournaments.

And it is about to go live.

The individual sports will begin playing under the new rules this fall, while team sports won't adhere to the new by-laws until the 2011-2012 school year.

AIA Chief Operating Officer Chuck Schmidt said it had been in discussion for the past several years and the model finally became clear enough to move forward with it.

"The dialogue has been occurring for three or four years," Schmidt said. "It's a holistic approach that will address several issues and we feel it will put us in a position to better Arizona high school sports as a whole.

"This will help with everything from regular season schedules to travel to out of school time and the cost to all of the above."

Essentially, what it comes down to is there will be fewer classes (previously as many as seven in some sports), it saves money and it will bring back some meaning to being a state qualifier.

"I am all for it," Desert Vista boys cross country coach Chris Hanson said. "With today's financial issues it was necessary. Strictly from a coaching aspect, it is a positive step because there will be meaning to the state meet again.

"For the last few years, everyone (in Class 5A) made the state meet. It really took away from the accomplishment that once was considered huge."

The changes differ by sport. Here is a quick breakdown:

• Badminton (46 total schools compete): Instead of two state meets - one each for 5A and 4A - there will only be a single state tournament.

• Cross country (192 boys teams/188 girls): The sport will reduce from six meets to four. Each of the divisions has three sectionals with the top 50 percent (roughly 6 of 12) and top five individuals not on one of the qualifying teams.

• Golf (182 boys/106 girls): There will be three divisions instead of six for the boys and two instead of four for the girls.

• Swim and Dive (123 boys/122 girls): The state meets drop from five to two. Individuals qualify based on automatic and provisional qualifying times to a maximum of 24 per event.

• Tennis (155 boys/155 girls): Reduced from six state tournaments to three.

• Track and field (220 boys/208 girls): Reduced from five to four with automatic and provisional qualifiers, which vary by division, in place to select a field of 24 individuals at most.

• Wrestling (186 schools): Drops from six individual tournaments to three. There will be three sectional tournaments per division with the top five in each advancing to the state meet to fill out 16-man brackets.

The team tournaments, which don't change until a year from now, will still use power rankings to fill in the at-large bids with sectional winners receiving automatic bids, but the number of divisions will be reduced as well.

Football will have five plus an eight-man division, basketball, baseball, soccer and softball will be at four, girls volleyball five, tennis three with badminton and boys volleyball having one.

"The AIA recognized the state tournaments were really not making money and in addition to that there was the question of the state meets being watered down," Schmidt said. "The prevailing thought was there were too many state titles compared to the amount of schools competing.

"Plus there were different conference parameters in how to qualify for state. This should put everything on even footing."

The placement of the schools into sectionals hasn't been announced yet, but Schmidt said that it would differ by sport and should be released by the end of the month.

It is unknown whether or not Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista will be lumped in with all of the East Valley schools or possibly be placed in the southern sectional with the Tucson schools.

However it flushes out the competition landscape has been changed and the sentiment has been mostly positive.

"For most sports 5A Division I is considered the best just based on population," Hanson said. "Cross country might be the one sport where that wasn't always the case. But now we are going to find out. We will be getting some of those top 5A and 4A I programs at our state meet now.

"It's going to be very interesting to see how it all works out and what teams really come to the top."

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