High school sports: Hearing on realignment offers no easy answers
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
MIDVALE — Uintah High principal Julie Wilde took her turn at the microphone in the crowded board room and tried to acknowledge the tough work the Board of Trustees for the Utah High School Activities Association has before it this week.
"We don't envy you having to make us all happy," she said before voicing support for the first draft proposal of 2013-15 realignment released two weeks ago.
But after two hours of public testimony only one thing is certain — there is no way the group can make every school happy as they draw up new classifications and regions for the state's 138 high schools. The trustees will meet Thursday morning to finalize the alignment, which will go into effect next fall for two years.
The public hearing began Wednesday night with a request from Judge Memorial to move up to 4A in all sports except football. Because football is now aligned separately into six classifications, schools can play in different regions for football than all other sports and they can also play in different classifications.
The issues twarting an easy solution include travel, competition, having the right number of schools in a region, and preserving traditional rivalries.
Much of the discussion centered around how each school prioritizes those issues as they sort through the issues of each scenario. About a half dozen new proposals were offered, most dealing with just one classification.
For instance, Carbon doesn't like the regions it's aligned in because they are the smallest and least competitive in both its football region and 3A sports region. The school's representative, Bruce Bean, said the school would take relief on either issue, which means less travel or a region in which it had a better chance to compete.
Other schools had similar concerns — and as usual — most of the concerns centered around football.
There was some discussion of moving Spanish Fork and Payson into 3AA's south region, as well as moving Carbon and Cedar from 3AA to 3A. Summit Academy could move to 2A in football, as the charter school has only played football for one year and has mostly freshmen and sophomores to draw from.
Several 1A principals asked the board to consider moving two teams from 2A to 1A in football to ensure the viability of the sport for the state's smallest schools.
"The concerns for us start with football," said Scott Shakespeare, Monticello principal. "1A football is certainly alive, but it could certainly use help. We have eigh teams. Four are solid teams and four could die any day. We need some help to keep that viable. Football is an important thing in small-town Utah."
North Sanpete representatives said the proposed region would more than double the school's annual travel cost from $17,000 per year to $36,000. Riverton representatives said the school's cost to travel to Utah County had skyrocketed while gate receipts plummeted.
Herriman is the only Jordan District school in the Utah County region in the initial board proposal and that school's principal asked to stay with the schools in its district for some of the same reasons Riverton wants to stay in Salt Lake County.
Jerry Haslam, a trustee and Granger's principal, offered two different options for 5A — one aligned north to south by address and the other aligned east to west by address. The north/south option would be: Region 1: Davis, Fremont, Layton, Northridge, Syracuse, Weber and Viewmont; Region 2: West, Granger, Hunter, Taylorsville, Cottonwood and Hillcrest; Region 3: Brighton, West Jordan, Copper Hills, Jordan, Bingham and Alta; Region 4: Herriman, Riverton, Lone Peak, Pleasant Grove, Lehi, Westlake and American Fork.