UHSAA finalizes realignment for next two years — and says it’s open to rule changes going forward

Utah prep sports’ ruling body appears poised to revamp the process two years from now

As the Utah High School Activities Association approved the 2021-23 realignment for school classifications and regions, Alpine School District Superintendent Sam Jarman made a motion: Things need to change.

“I want to make a motion that we formally establish a committee to study our rules and realignment so that when we come around in two years, we’ve had it vetted and it’s ready to go with any changes that may be necessary and recommended by staff or the [board of trustees],” Jarman said.

The motion passed unanimously with the caveat that the UHSAA staff will be tasked by the board to create a new format and procedure to tackle realignment.

Translation: The next time the UHSAA shuffles schools around, the entire process and the results of that process could look vastly different.

Tom Sherwood, principal of Brighton High School, said last week that he hopes this year’s realignment is the last in which regions are taken into consideration.

“We need to address this in larger fashion and hopefully this is the last time we need do to this by regions,” Sherwood said.

The UHSAA nearly two years ago approved moving to an RPI system to determine playoff seeding for all schools in seven sports, ostensibly making region records meaningless. Some coaches disliked the new system initially, with one coach calling it “a joke.”

The 2021-23 realignment for football hardly changed from last week’s initial proposal. The only changes were that Roy High School moved from Region 1 to Region 2 after principal Matt Williams requested the change during a public hearing Wednesday evening. Roy also moved to Region 2 in all other sports.

Additionally, Cottonwood High School will most likely become independent in football, although that is subject to the board’s approval. UHSAA Executive Director Rob Cuff, however, said the board has yet to deny a school’s request to play an independent schedule.

Payson and Timpanogos high schools, which both played independent schedules last year, indicated to the UHSAA that if they were to stay in Region 7 as proposed last week, they would no longer need to be independent, Sherwood said.

Sherwood added that there would be a chance that Jordan High School, which was slated for Region 8, will request independence if that proposal remained in place which it did.

The biggest change in the realignment came for all sports except football, where 5A expanded to five regions and 4A was split into two — one for northern Utah and the other for Southern Utah.

In last week’s proposal, 5A had four regions and 4A had a so-called “central” region (Region 10) of Mountain View, Park City, Stansbury, Tooele and Uintah. Now those five schools are all in 5A. Mountain View is in Region 8; Park City is in Region 6; and Stansbury, Tooele and Uintah are in Region 7.

Much of the discussion Thursday surrounded how to deal with the 4A classification, which has less than 15 schools altogether. The USHAA’s rules dictate that the classifications are set by enrollment size.

“We’ve got to get to a point to where, yeah, we can still sustain six classifications very easily, but we need to start moving schools,” Juab School District board president Dale Whitlock said. “We can’t just look at numbers of the school and say, ‘Hey because you have 2,000 students, you play with [other schools] with 2,000 students. We’ve got to start looking at the competitive balance. … Sometime, we have to break the rules and let the association start to move schools where they need to be.”

Cuff said that August was the time to change the rules of how realignment was approached, but it didn’t happen.

“We as a staff have tried to fix this with some ideas to the executive committee, and using success factor and other things to help more competitive regions,” Cuff said. “That’s fallen on deaf ears to this point. We do have a plan. It hasn’t been accepted yet.”