Midvale • The Utah High School Activities Association on Thursday finalized a move to six classifications for football beginning in 2013, a long-expected move that is aimed at alleviating pressure on midsize schools.
But the association’s board of trustees may not be done tinkering with the structure of high school sports in the state.
The board stopped short of adding an extra classification in all sports, but it established a committee to examine a move that would take effect in 2015, the beginning of the next realignment cycle.
“I think there’s a lot of issues out there,” Ben Lomond principal Ben Smith said. “There’s some groundwork to be done if we were to go to 6A for all activities.”
Sports such as soccer, tennis and swimming that currently have fewer than five classifications would likely just add a class rather than expand to six.
In 2010, the board adopted a process to realign schools best on enrollment ratios — biggest to smallest within a classification — every two years.
“What I keep hearing is it’s incrementalism,” St. Joseph principal Norm Allred said. “It’s a chance, it’s a move. OK, I think we should agree to that. Let’s do six divisions with football and then see what we do next.”
That means the state could go from five classifications (through the 2012-13 school year), to six for only football, and then six across the board (starting in the fall of 2015) in a matter of two and a half years.
Which schools are placed in which classification numbers will be based on Oct. 1 enrollment numbers, and the board will place schools in classifications and regions in November.
The expansion in football will split 3A, where administrators and coaches have lamented rural schools competing against urban schools, such as Juan Diego and Judge Memorial, that they said in a public hearing on Wednesday have other advantages.
“We love playing these bigger schools and these urban schools,” Union athletic director Mike Ross said. “But we feel like we should have a chance to compete against schools that are like us.”
The approved format calls for 24 to 28 schools in 6A, 26 to 32 in 5A, 14 to 20 in 4A, 12 to 16 in 3A, 10 to 14 in 2A and eight or more in 1A.
The biggest changes are in 4A, 3A and 2A. In the current five-class system, 3A and 2A have 49 schools.
It’s a significant change to the structure of football in the state, and it isn’t without its detractors.
“I think it’s stupid,” Class 5A Bingham coach Dave Peck said.
He acknowledged that a sixth classification wouldn’t have much impact on the big schools, but expressed concern that essentially splitting 3A and adding another championship dilutes the value of a state championship.
“Some of those have only 12 schools,” he said. “That’s more like a region championship than a state title.”
After a lengthy public comment period, however, Peck appears to be in the minority.
“It seems like to me it’s what’s best for football throughout all classifications,” Class 5A Davis football coach Ryan Bishop said. “I don’t see that it changes — unless I’m missing something — I don’t see that it changes a lot for 4A and 5A.”
Delta administrators and coaches have been among the biggest proponents for a revamped 3A, and football coach Russ Henrie said this plan, which he hopes will separate urban 3A schools from the rural ones, will make things more fair.
Delta was the smallest school in 3A based on the 2010 number the UHSAA used for realignment.
“We don’t want to use it for an excuse,” Henrie said. “We want to make sure kids will fight no matter what the odds, but you always know in the back of your mind. I always say a big kid with a big heart is better than a little kid with a big heart. … In football, the big kid’s going to win.”
Proposed format for 2013 UHSAA realignment
Anticipated number of schools in regions (non-football)
Class 5A • 24 to 28
4A • 28 to 32
3A • 16 to 24
2A • 16 to 24
1A • Remainder
Anticipated number of schools in regions (football)
Class 6A • 24 to 28
5A • 26 to 32
4A • 14 to 20
3A • 12 to 16
2A • 10 to 14
1A • 8+