Old School Andy: New football realignment rewards mediocrity

COMMENTARY – The Utah High School Activities Association is tinkering with the regions and classifications again. And I don’t like it.

The UHSAA has released its proposal for the region and school realignment for 2013-2015. Under the proposed draft, which can be found here, 3A would drop to 22 schools overall and a new classification for football would be “3AA,” where the larger of the 3A schools would play in a 15-team classification, the smaller of the 3As and the larger 2As would play in a new 12-team 3A class and the remaining 2A teams would compete in a 13-team class.

The reasoning, I guess, for the football realignment and added classification is to keep the smaller schools from having to compete with schools that have significantly more students.

For instance, the 3A football playoffs this year featured Dixie (1,080 students in grades 10-12) vs. North Sanpete (485 students), Hurricane (890) vs. Delta (417) and Spanish Fork (1.166) vs. Morgan (542).

The valid argument has always been made that you have to make the cutoff somewhere. But in football, the added classification has made a new cutoff, which means smaller classifications. And that means fewer teams competing for more trophies.

Optimists will say that more trophies and smaller classes in football just means more joy to go around. In the next three years, Utah will be handing out six football championship trophies, not five.

But isn’t that akin to handing out participation trophies? You know, the “everyone who plays is a winner,” mindset that has taken over some Little Leagues.

Under the new football proposal, Payson, Wasatch and Spanish Fork would bump up to 4A, while Union, Morgan, Grantsville and Judge Memorial would play in 3A. That would send just two regions to 3AA; a north region consisting of Ben Lomond, Uintah, Stansbury, Park City, Tooele, Bear River, Carbon and Juan Diego, and a south region consisting of the current Region 9 members.

That’s 15 teams. This year, 16 teams made it to the state playoffs in football. That’s right, there aren’t even enough teams to put on a proper playoff tournament.

Plus, there are certain teams that have no business in the playoffs. This season, the combined record of Uintah, Park City, Tooele, Ben Lomond, Carbon and Canyon View was 5-53.

When I asked UHSAA officials why they felt the need to add a classification to football in Utah, the answer they kept coming up with was “safety.”

According to administrators, it is unsafe for schools with, say, 1,000 students, to play football against a school with, say, 500 students. The thinking, I guess, is that with twice the student-body, athletes would be so much bigger, faster and stronger as to create unsafe playing conditions.

Which, of course, is a bunch of hooey.

Tell that to the 303 students at San Juan High School, who work hard, practice hard and annually beat much larger schools in the preseason. The Broncos beat Snow Canyon (1,116 students) this year and annually put a beating on Kirtland, N.M., a school with 770 students.

When I played high school football, our young West Jordan team was a brand new school split off of Bingham High. Virtually all the junior and seniors stayed at Bingham when the school split (I was a sophomore). We took some beatings those first couple of years. Not only did Bingham (and every other team in the region) have more students than us, the Miners were also older and more mature.

But we didn’t cry foul.

Instead, we were challenged to work harder, lift longer and learn faster. We didn’t get hurt, we got motivated.

Alas, this football business is all but a done deal for the next three years. A public meeting was held and very little protest was raised. Maybe it’s a statement about our modern society and political correctness.

After all, we wouldn’t want to offend anyone by making them have to work harder and improve their program.

By the way, the proposal also splits up Region 9 in all sports except football. The Cedar schools, CHS and Canyon View, are being shipped out of the region. Starting next year, Cedar and Canyon View will play in a five-team region with Juab, North Sanpete and Richfield. That would leave Region 9 with just five teams in Dixie, Hurricane, Desert Hills, Pine View and Snow Canyon.

I don’t like this proposal, either, though geographically it makes sense with Payson, Spanish Fork and Wasatch heading to 4A and Delta dropping down to 2A. It’s just sad to see the rivalries that have developed for decades being discontinued.


Andy Griffin is a sports commentator. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.

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