With the 2011-2012 high school football season just around the corner, coaches will also have to prepare for the new Arizona Interscholastic Association division alignments.
The new AIA rules went into effect last year for individual sports programs such as track, tennis and golf. Now the remaining sports will be placed in new divisions for the 2011-2012 school year.
Football and other fall sports programs will be the least impacted by the changes, but will still require new divisions.
Amphitheater High School is a Division III, Section 1 school, while the other area high schools are classified as Division II, Section II schools.
Canyon Del Oro, Ironwood Ridge, Marana and Mountain View high schools will face each other during the regular season.
Pusch Ridge Academy is the smallest district in the area, being placed in Division V, Section III.
Before this year, teams were split up into conferences ranging in division between 1A, being the smallest schools in the state, and 5A, or schools with state’s largest districts.
Most area high schools prior to this season were classified 4A Division I.
The AIA changes are aimed at saving money, especially on championship tournaments.
AIA has continually lost money over the past several years, especially in individual sports. Instead of one tournament, AIA was hosting a separate tournament for every division.
Now, AIA is hosting one daylong tournament in such athletic programs as golf, track and tennis for all divisions.
While the football state power points system will still be based on strength of schedule as in past years, the playoffs will be similar to past seasons, with one exception.
Instead of the top 24 teams in each division making the state playoffs, AIA has cut the pool, making it harder to earn a postseason spot, and winning a championship even more competitive with only the toughest teams making the cut.
In programs such as basketball, softball and baseball, schedules and division placement will depend more on location than enrollment. Saving schools travel costs, AIA is working to have teams compete against those schools that are nearby.
Rural schools have complained the most about the new system because a high school with just over 300 students could now potentially face districts with 1,200 students or more in basketball, softball and baseball.
Most area schools such as Marana, Mountain View and Ironwood Ridge have a student population of 1,200 or more, except for Pusch Ridge Academy, which used to be a 2A Division school with 279 students.