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Prescott High to appeal AIA division realignment for football, other sports

Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier<br>The Prescott High varsity boys’ basketball program, seen in action with Logan Smith (12) on Jan. 22, has been on the move with the AIA’s recent realignment proposal. The program, which had been scheduled to go from D-2 to D-1 in the initial realignment announced last week, would stay in D-2 based on Monday’s latest proposal. But it will appeal to go down to D-3.

Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier<br>The Prescott High varsity boys’ basketball program, seen in action with Logan Smith (12) on Jan. 22, has been on the move with the AIA’s recent realignment proposal. The program, which had been scheduled to go from D-2 to D-1 in the initial realignment announced last week, would stay in D-2 based on Monday’s latest proposal. But it will appeal to go down to D-3.

Prescott High's athletic department will appeal the Arizona Interscholastic Association's (AIA) proposed 2015-18 division realignment for the Badgers' football program, among other sports, after the AIA made a modest tweak to its placements in recent days.On Monday, the AIA announced revised proposed placements for all of the state's varsity sports programs, six days after it revealed its original changes. Included in the mix was PHS football moving up to Division 2 from D-3.Schools will have through the end of business on Monday, Feb. 2, to appeal new placements so that the AIA's sports advisory committees may hear the appeals, AIA director of business media Brian Bolitho said Tuesday.Related: AIA division realignment proposal sparks critical reactionsThe appeal hearings process will end Feb. 9. At that point, schools denied appeals from the sports advisory committees may bring them to the AIA executive board for final judgment, Bolitho added. The AIA will lock in its new divisions on Feb. 17."Keep in mind this is the computer element of the process and now we have the human element to sort this out," he said.The Badgers' football program, originally slated to stay in D-3, was moved to what's typically a higher-enrollment D-2. PHS volleyball, girls' basketball, boys' and girls' soccer, and boys' and girls' tennis were also upped from D-2 to D-1, and Prescott High's appealing those placements, too, Athletic Director Mark Goligoski said.Badgers' boys' basketball, which had been scheduled to go from D-2 to D-1 in the initial realignment announced last week, would stay in D-2 based on Monday's latest proposal. Goligoski said PHS will appeal to go down to D-3 in boys' basketball, presumably to join rival Bradshaw Mountain, which was moved from D-2 to D-3 in the realignment.Prescott wants to remain in D-3 for football because its enrollment fits within that division the best, Badgers coach Cody Collett said. He added that 26 schools in D-3 have larger enrollments than PHS."If they don't like our appeal, then we'll go out and compete," Collett said. "But with the restructure (of schools in Prescott Unified School District) and a continuing decline in enrollment, our appeal is a no-brainer."Bolitho said that the AIA implemented a new formula with three variables to decide divisional placements. Instead of placements being determined simply by enrollment, which was done in the past, the AIA added a school's percentage of free-and-reduced lunches (socioeconomic factor) as well as a particular program's median MaxPreps power rankings over the past six years.Based on the new formula, higher-enrollment schools perform a bit better athletically, Bolitho said. But when factoring in their free-and-reduced lunch numbers, a stronger correlation exists between those variables taken together and on-field competitiveness, he added.Bolitho added that the goal with the new formula is to reduce the number of appeals made to the AIA, although "first and foremost" to make the divisions more competitive. In the future, divisions and sections will stay the same unless the AIA's sports advisory committees recommend certain schools get moved up or down based on their success or lack thereof."They can use the data that we run in the formula, that we get from the most recent years, to support their decision, if you will," Bolitho said of the advisory committees. "The board will then approve or deny those recommendations. And then all schools can come and appeal where they currently sit in their division and sectional alignments, and then we'll finalize it. But we won't do the major reshuffle, reclassification any more (to keep rivalries intact, etc.)."Collett said the AIA made this formula "with the best of intentions," which he commended. But he added that the formula's variables aren't weighted properly. Collett thinks school enrollment is still the most important variable.For example, Prescott has an enrollment of less than 1,500, but it would be placed in D-2 with the likes of Mesa High, which has about 3,500.Bolitho said if the placements were based strictly on enrollment, Prescott football would stay in D-3. But he added that the Badgers' competitive track record over the past six years, coupled with its free-and-reduced lunch numbers, make it a better fit in D-2.Based on the new formula, some schools that are big enough to stay in a higher-enrollment division will drop down to a lower-enrollment division because they're not as competitive, Bolitho said."Enrollment isn't the indicator of a true success of a program," he said. "Competition becomes tighter when you sort and utilize it based on (the data from those other variables)."However, Collett thinks that the appeals process will rectify the mismatches. The coach said Prescott and Mingus Union were the lone football programs in northern Arizona that moved up to D-2.PHS plans to file its appeal before next Monday's deadline, the coach said.Collett added that enrollment isn't the only factor in the Badgers' football program's desire to stay in D-3. By not playing as many opponents up north, there are concerns over having to make longer road trips and the difficulty in maintaining regional rivalries."We want to keep Mingus and Bradshaw Mountain as rivals if we're made to stay," the coach said.Bolitho said schools that may be in separate divisions in boys' and girls' basketball, for example, and want to be in the same division for travel purposes, can make their case for an appeal on those grounds."The schools that you're used to playing with that you want in the same grouping, that's really a basis for appeal that you would really want to make as well," he said. "You want to keep that northern feel. People come out for those games. They like those natural rivalries that happen."For more information on this topic, visit www.aiaonline.org or www.azpreps365.com.Follow Doug Cook on Twitter @dougout_dc
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