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.
The east/west alignment is: Region 1: Same as above; Region 2: Cottonwood, West, Taylorsville, West Jordan, Granger and Hunter; Region 3: Lehi, Westlake, Riverton, Herriman, Bingham, Copper Hills; Region 4: Lone Peak, Pleasant Grove, American Fork, Alta, Jordan and Brighton. This option leaves Hillcrest, which is on the bubble between 4A and 5A, in 4A.
Iron County Superintendent Jim Johnson asked that Cedar and Canyon View not be separated from their decades-long rivals in the St. George area in everything but football. The two schools were placed in a region with Juab, North Sanpete and Richfield in all sports but football.
"We've worked hard to develop a region down there," he said. "I felt a bit blindsided that the Cedar City schools were placed in a region with schools other than the St. George Schools."
He said the district also opposed being in a five-team region as that created issues in trying to find non-region games to fill schedules.
Johnson asked the board to consider placing Canyon View in 3A, rather than 3AA with the other St. George schools, because it has struggled to compete at that level. Canyon View hasn't beaten another St. George school in football in 11 years, he said.
Steve Hess of Cyprus, and Maile Loo of Kearns, proposed a completely different configuration for 4A. Region 5 would be: Bonneville, Box Elder, Logan, Mountain Crest, Ogden, Roy and Sky View; Region 6: Bountiful, Clearfield, Olympus, Skyline, Kearns, Cyprus, Woods Cross and Murray; Region 7: Corner Canyon, Hillcrest, Mountain View, East, Highland, Orem, Timpanogos and SPA (Salt Lake Performing Arts); Region 8: Maple Mountain Provo, Payson, Salem Hills, Spanish Fork, Springville, Timpview and Wasatch.
Rowland Hall and Waterford made a joint presentation asking that the two private schools trade places with Gunnison and either Summit Academy or Maeser Prep allowing them to stay with the Summit County schools that are now in their region.
A 1A proposal seaparated one of the four regions into a north and south division to ease travel concerns and make region play more manageable. In that proposal, Concordia, ICS, Legacy, Mt. Vernon and St. Joseph would be the North Division and Dugway, Oakley, Tintic, Wendover, West Ridge, Eskdale, USDB and West Desert would make up the south.