by Scott Boyle
And then there were six.
The Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) divided Utah high schools into six classifications this past week.
There have been six classifications in football for a couple of years, but now there will be six in all sports.
San Juan High School was moved up to 3A starting in 2017.
Monticello and Whitehorse, after successfully petitioning UHSAA, were allowed to remain in 1A.
San Juan will be in 3A’s Region 15 that includes Richfield, Manti, South Sevier, Grand, Emery and North Sanpete. All those teams, but North Sanpete, were moved from 2A to 3A along with the Broncos.
The Broncos current 2A Region consists of Emery, Grand and Manti, plus Gunnison and North Sevier. The latter two will remain in 2A.
Football classifications will remain the same, with San Juan playing in 2A and Monticello in 1A. Monument Valley and Whitehorse played an independent football schedule.
Though the regions won’t be finalized until December 8, as it now stands Monticello and Whitehorse will stay in Region 19 including Monument Valley, Green River, and Pinnacle with the addition of Wayne County High School in Bicknell making a six-team region. Current 1A teams Parowan, Altamont, Duchesne, and St. Josephs will move to 2A next year.
Travel was the main issue for Monticello. A move to 2A would have increased the Buckaroo’s travel miles from an average of 215 miles per region opponent (mpro) for every sport to 569 mpro.
The added distance would have forced additional overnight trips which would have added to the costs of individuals.
The San Juan Broncos, who already travel more than any other public school in the state, will increase their travel slightly by moving to 3A.
The travel will increase from 403 mpro to 441 mpro, mostly because of the addition of North Sanpete in Mt. Pleasant, a round trip of 568 miles, although not much farther than Manti and Monroe, both 524 miles round trip.
The move to 3A makes the Broncos the smallest 3A school, instead of nearly the largest 2A school.
SportShorts asked coaches, athletic directors and principals at MHS and SJHS for their thoughts about the new alignment.
Kraig Black, MHS girls basketball head coach, said that the “good of staying 1A is less travel time.”
Buckaroo cross country and track coach, Jeff Hunt commented, “I don’t care for six divisions. Schools and parents will be putting a lot of pressure on kids to win championships now.
“That having been said, the boys team should enter next year as one of the top two teams in 1A in cross country. If Wayne stays in our region, their teams should compete every year.
“For track, there should be three or four team races at the top. Panguitch and Rich are always good and tough, and Wayne is usually pretty good as well. It should be fun.”
San Juan volleyball coach Cassy Moon opined, “Can I say we should be 2A? Travel is not really an issue, as we have been in this basic region before. Instead of North Sanpete, we had Wasatch Academy.
“I really thought we would have Carbon instead. North Sanpete is a hop skip and jump from... Delta and such.
“Again, where we live means we have to travel. I do believe that since all current 3A programs, incuding the ones that are staying, are developing four separate teams (varsity, JV, sophomore and freshman), we should too.
“Our new region is extremely weak compared to Morgan’s, and I would like to see the same opportunity for us to develop kids.
“In speaking with North Sanpete’s coach, they are expecting the same types of programs. This means that if we can’t play teams at the same time, we will need to be able to play earlier, which seems to be a consideration for our home games, as all other schools have a second gym on location.
“Those programs are running indoor sports like this: Sophomores play at 4. JV plays in main gym and freshmen in second gym at 5:30. Varsity plays at 7. While this is not a travel consideration for us, it is for them. Start times need to be managed for our home games.”
Tony Esplin of Monticello High School remarked, “My take is from the volleyball and basketball sports viewpoint. Other school sports may be completely different.
“I like the alignment. It keeps me from living on the road five months out of the year, and I only coach two sports.
“I think it would have been a heavy financial burden not only on the travel and team budgets, but also on the individual families.
“For the most part, our kids and families pay all their own expenses while on the road, from motel to food costs. To the district it would have increased their expenses for travel.
“You think the schools would take in more money in gate receipts, but from past history, just the opposite happens. Other school fans do not generally follow their teams long distances.
“When we went back to 1A from 2A years ago, our gate receipts went up quite a bit. We all know that travel expenses have changed a lot in the last 10 years. Several years ago, we were able to get motel rooms for $50 to $70 per room. Now we are paying $90 to $120 per room.
“Another side that hasn’t been addressed much is time out of school and time away from families. That would have probably doubled in the 2A for many students.
“There wasn’t much family time, down time or recovery time in 2A. When you move games to Fridays and Saturdays to keep kids in school, and you get home between 1:30 and 3 a.m. on Sunday morning from road trips, 28 hours later they are back in school again. That is hard on kids, coaches and families.
“The competition was fun in the 2A classification, but for the most part we were simply outmatched just by shear numbers. In volleyball and basketball, on our varsity teams when we would need to substitute, we would often be using backup juniors and sophomores, where most of our 2A competitors would sub with backup seniors and juniors. We simply lost many games because of the level of experience and abilities of our substitutes.
“I think it was a good move to include Wayne in our 1A region, and it will increase the level of competition for our region. It will also help Wayne in that they will travel less in the new region than in their old region.
“I personally think Wayne will do better and be more competitive in the new region than in their old region. I think it is a win win situation for both of us. I like the results of the realignment.”
Vernon Hatch, a parent in Monticello, is excited about the new realignment. “A side benefit is the opportunity to be more successful at 1A,” he maintains. “But the main benefit is to play local teams, less travel in the winter.
“It looked like a 2A schedule would have necessitated at least three overnighters for volleyball and basketball. That’s hard on kids (even the NBA players don’t like back-to-back games) and places a burden on families.
“We appreciate Bill Boyle for all the time and effort he put in to the process. He needs to be commended.”
Regardless of the classification, the student/athletes go to school, then put on the uniform and lace up the shoes and play the game. That’s the fun thing about all this, the kids just play.