by Scott Boyle
Realignment: To put back into proper order or alignment.
The Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) is currently considering a proposal for realignment that does anything but put Utah high schools in proper order, at least the proposed alignment for 1A and 2A schools.
According to the UHSSA realignment proposal, which will be the subject of a public hearing on March 23 followed by a final alignment vote the next day, the proposal creates six overall classification and leaves 1A, 2A, and 3A classifications with 21 schools in each.
The intent is to then create three regions in each classification of seven schools each. Sounds nice and clean, but a thorough review presents some serious flaws.
SportShorts strongly feels the proposal does serious damage to the viability of all 1A state tournaments, particularly wrestling, while significantly increasing the travel for many schools, and harming the charm, attractiveness, and competitiveness of an iconic piece of the fabric of rural Utah.
First, the realignment proposal would be devastating to the competitiveness of 1A state tournaments. In the last four years, 1A schools have participated in 40 state tournaments.
Schools that will remain in 1A under the realignment proposal won 26 of those tournaments. Schools moving to 2A won the other 14 titles.
Each of the 10 sports in 1A, from cross-country in the fall to track and field in the spring, has viable state tournaments that are currently and consistently competitive, captivating, and sustainable.
The realignment, part of which consists of moving eight schools from 1A to 2A including those with the 14 states titles, only serves to make it easy to assume that the same three schools staying in 1A who won 23 of the 26 state championships will win most, if not all, of the future championships.
Rather than creating more opportunity for other schools, the realignment proposal significantly weakens the viability of each tournament. Additionally, seeding three regions into a tournament format based on eight to 16 teams creates a changing situation each year with a rotating number of allotments for each region.
Wrestling is a sport whose tournament would be particularly diluted by the realignment. In last month’s state tournament, 115 1A boys took the mat looking for stardom. Sixty-four wrestlers wrestled on teams moving to 2A under the realignment, leaving only 51 wrestlers from teams staying in 1A.
In two of the weights, 138 and 170 pounds, there were only two wrestlers from 1A staying teams. Another five weights had only five wrestlers in the bracket from teams staying in 1A.
Next year, none of the weight classifications will have complete eight-man brackets with the teams left in 1A. How viable is a championship when there is only one match to decide the state champion?
Part of the problem is the number of classifications in Utah. With the current five classifications and only 146 participating schools, Utah averages 26 schools per classification, the lowest of any state in America.
Idaho has five classifications and 31 schools per classification. Arizona averages 53 schools in five classifications while Nevada averages 30 schools in just two classifications.
The proposed realignment would lower even further the already lowest-in-America ratio to 21. Isn’t this an “everyone gets a trophy” mentality that rewards mediocrity?
Second, moving teams out of current 1A region alignments would significantly increase travel time, costs, and time out of school. For example, Region 19 schools, who already hit the road plenty (Pinnacle 1,442 miles, Green River 1,064, Monticello 850, Whitehorse 1,016, and Monument Valley 1,108), travel a total of 5,480 miles just to compete in Region 19 basketball, not even counting the mileage for non-region games.
Moving three Region 19 schools, Monticello, Whitehorse, and Pinnacle, to 2A and then to a seven-team region most likely involving Kanab, Parowan, North Sevier and Gunnison would increase the mileage by 1,860 miles for Monticello and 2,310 miles for Whitehorse.
The mileage for Kanab (1,280), Parowan (1,610), Gunnison (965) and North Sevier (1,020) would also significantly increase, as shown in parenthesis, along with any 1A schools that would be put in the same region as Monument Valley and Green River, such as Diamond Ranch, Bryce Valley, Panguitch, Valley, or Escalante.
It is simply unacceptable to expect schools, especially those already traveling an amazing amount, to double and triple their mileage just to satisfy slick looking 21 team classifications.
SportShorts maintains the present alignment works quite fine for 1A and 2A. It is already in proper order. The state tournaments are viable, workable, and compelling, and continue to be a significant part of the fabric of small towns in Utah.
Realigning to the proposed format would be unfair, unreasonable, and demeaning, and would only add an unacceptable financial burden to schools, particularly those in Region 19 and those who would become Region 19.
And since Region 20 schools still in 1A have captured 23 state championships in the last four years, wouldn’t we merely be hosting state tournaments that would plainly be a repeat of a Region 20 basketball tournament?
Déjà vu all over again, and again, and again, and again. SportShorts only wants an equal and fair place at the table. The current alignment does just that. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.