Arizona High School Football Conferences

Arizona has 7 high school football conferences. Each conference is based on enrollment numbers, so that the schools are (relatively) similar in size. Every two years, the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) realigns schools so that their enrollments “match up”. Schools can petition to move up or down based on past history or travel times.

However, several years ago (2005), the number of schools began to get so big that the conferences decided to split the largest two into two “subdivisions”, in effect creating a 4A-I and a 4A-II conference and again with a 5A-I and 5A-II conference.

It sort of made sense at the time, in a weird convoluted way, but in recent years, as enrollments push past the 3100 mark, it no longer does. A new alignment needs to take place in the next two-year bloc to replace these 4A-I/II and 5A-I/II conferences.

Several people on multiple forums have attempted this same task, but for a myriad of reasons ranging from personal bias preference to simply not knowing where the schools were located those attempts failed.

So, I went through the exercise of doing this, keeping in mind not only enrollment but also attempting to preserve region groupings by location wherever possible. There were some assumptions that had to be made on which schools would petition up or down, but some of those were relatively easy based on the schools’ past histories.

As of the 2009-2010 bloc, enrollments for each division were as follows:
4A-II: 1200–1799 students
4A-I: 1800-2099
5A-II: 2100-2399
5A-I: 2400+

4A has 68 schools as members – this is further broken down with the 4A-II division having 35 schools, and 4A-I having the other 33. 5A has 63 schools, with the 5A-II having 32 and 5A-I having 31.

Just by the straight numbers, the breakdown looks to be fairly equal. But it’s not. Look again – remember, -I and -II aren’t different conferences, they’re just divisions within the same conference. Notice that the 4A conference has an enrollment range of about 900 students, but the 5A conference has a range of over 1500 students! Even worse, the enrollment range breaks down like this:

4A-II: 1200–1799 = 599
4A-I: 1800-2099 = 299
5A-II: 2100-2399 = 299
5A-I: 2400-3600+ = 1200!!!

In any case, here’s the current view of the larger AIA conferences, with enrollment numbers. Schools that petitioned to be a part of the conference are noted with a + or – next to their number indicating they petitioned up or down. The 5A conference decided to have all teams compete together, so there are no distinct regions for 5A-II or 5A-I. Hence, 5A-II teams are noted with an * before the school name.

Current Conference Enrollments

4A-II Black Canyon4A-I Desert Sky5A Fiesta5A Metro
Cactus1627Apache Junction1764Brophy2506Alhambra2905
Cortez1278Cactus Shadows1794Chandler3226* Betty H. Fairfax2000
Greenway1548Campo Verde1500Desert Vista2920* Camelback1958 +
Paradise Valley1578Combs1735Hamilton3345* Carl Hayden2277
Thunderbird1620McClintock1778Mesa3639* Central2265
Washington1630Poston Butte1725Red Mountain3556Maryvale2637
Queen Creek1700North2549
4A-II East SkySaguaro14765A Desert Valley* South Mountain2001
Trevor Browne2902
Arcadia15904A-I Kino* Chaparral2037
Coronado1317* Desert Mountain23395A Northwest
Higley1418Cienega1834* Horizon2311
Maricopa1473Desert View2090 -North Canyon2449* Boulder Creek2034
Notre Dame Prep945 +Marana1877* Pinnacle2174* Deer Valley2253
Seton Catholic547 +Nogales1821St. Mary's778 +* Barry Goldwater2039
Tempe1347Sahuaro1750* Kingman1974
Williams Field17715A Desert WestMountain Ridge2492
4A-I Sonoran* Sandra Day O'Connor2125
4A-II Gila* Centennial2144* Valley Vista2338
CDO1838Cesar Chavez2592* Willow Canyon2175
Amphitheater1450Catalina Foothills1759* Ironwood2080
Catalina1404Flowing Wells1825* La Joya22075A East Valley
Cholla1645Pueblo1960* Millennium1990
Douglas1346Sabino1374* Tolleson2238Casa Grande3320
Palo Verde1484Vista Grande1800* Westview2317Desert Ridge2397
Rio Rico1157 +* Marcos de Niza1965
Sahuarita14124A-I West Valley5A CentralMountain Pointe2446
Santa Rita1291* Perry1891 +
Agua Fria1714Basha2455Skyline2412
4A-II Grand CanyonBradshaw Mtn1747Corona del Sol2522Westwood2874
Copper Canyon1921Dobson3019
Coconino1204Dysart1775Gilbert31275A Southern
Mingus1235Raymond S. Kellis1775Mesa Mt. View3225Buena2591
Mohave1536Sunrise Mountain1786Mesquite3451* Ironwood Ridge1913 +
Page1044 +* Marana Mt. View1964 +
Sinagua966 +4A-I Western Sky5A Gila Valley* Rincon/University2116
Salpointe Catholic1191 +
4A-II SkylineApollo1804* Cibola2355* Sunnyside2264 +
Glendale1680* Gila Ridge2025Tucson2974
Desert Edge1549Moon Valley1688* Lake Havasu2060
Liberty1805Prescott1938San Luis2461
Shadow Ridge1500Shadow Mountain1854* Yuma2110
Sierra Linda1535Sunnyslope1784

What I attempted to do is realign the conferences by getting rid of the silly divisions within 4A and 5A and create “superconferences” for large enrollment schools. Also, I needed to be cognizant of the fact that the AIA does not allow more than 40 schools in a single conference – hence the divisional breakup in 4A and 5A – and also ensure that travel times were manageable.

Taking these facts into consideration, I was able to create new alignments – which on the surface seem to be similar as the old, but are more reasonably broken out by enrollment. Unless a team petitions up, no school in the 7A conference would be playing as a conference foe a team with less than 2500 students.

Suggested Conference Alignments

4A Black Canyon365A Desert Sky366A Desert Valley357A Fiesta24
Cactus1627Apache Junction1764Chaparral2037Brophy2506
Cortez1278Cactus Shadows1794Desert Mountain2339Chandler3226
Greenway1548Combs1735North Canyon2449Desert Vista2920
Paradise Valley1578McClintock1778Horizon2311Hamilton3345
Saguaro1476Poston Butte1725Pinnacle2174Mesa3639
Thunderbird1620Queen Creek1700Red Mountain3556
Washington1630Perry18916A Desert WestWestwood2874
Williams Field1771
4A East SkyCentennial21447A Central
5A KinoIronwood2080
Arcadia1590La Joya2207Corona del Sol2522
Campo Verde1500Cienega1834Millennium1990Dobson3019
Coronado1317Desert View2090 -Tolleson2238Gilbert3127
Higley1418Ironwood Ridge1913Westview2317Highland3097
Maricopa1473Marana1877Mesa Mt. View3225
Notre Dame Prep945 +Marana Mt. View19646A Gila ValleyMesquite3451
Seton Catholic547 +Nogales1821
Tempe1347Sahuaro1750Cibola23557A Pima
Gila Ridge2025
4A Gila5A SonoranKofa2513 -Alhambra2905
Lake Havasu2060Cesar Chavez2592
Amphitheater1450CDO1838San Luis2461Maryvale2637
Catalina1404Catalina Foothills1759Yuma2110North2549
Cholla1645Flowing Wells1825St. Mary's778 +
Douglas1346Pueblo19606A MetroTrevor Browne2902
Palo Verde1484Rincon/University2116 -
Rio Rico1157 +Sabino1374 +Betty H. Fairfax20007A Southern
Sahuarita1412Vista Grande1800Camelback1958 +
Santa Rita1291Carl Hayden2277Buena2591
5A West ValleyCentral2265Casa Grande3320
4A Grand CanyonSouth Mountain2001Salpointe Catholic1191 +
Agua Fria1714Tucson2974
Coconino1204Bradshaw Mtn17476A NorthwestSunnyside2264 +
Flagstaff1443Copper Canyon1921
Mingus1235Dysart1775Boulder Creek2034
Mohave1536Liberty1805Deer Valley2253
Page1044 +Raymond S. Kellis1775Barry Goldwater2039
Sinagua966 +Sunrise Mountain1786Kingman1974
Mountain Ridge2492
4A Skyline5A Western SkySandra Day O'Connor2125
Valley Vista2338
Buckeye1599Apollo1804Willow Canyon2175
Desert Edge1549Glendale1680
Peoria1659Independence18666A East Valley
Shadow Ridge1500Moon Valley1688
Sierra Linda1535Prescott1938Basha2455
Verrado1650Shadow Mountain1854Desert Ridge2397
Youngker1347Sunnyslope1784Marcos de Niza1965
Mountain Pointe2446

Could it be better? Sure – I’ve toyed with the numbers a little bit and I could reasonably get conferences down to rounder numbers (like a 2000 minimum for 6A instead of 1965), but what I’ve mapped out is pretty kosher, plus it’s feasible for most schools’ travel budgets too.

This exercise took three days to complete, but I think it was worth the effort. 🙂

Do I think that the AIA will consider this? Normally, I would say no, but the scary thing is – it’s actually attainable AND reasonable. It’s not exclusionary, it actually does depend on several schools petitioning up or down (so it accounts for some small movement), and its sets itself up for growth in the “superconferences” of 6A and 7A as several schools still have yet to reach capacity.

Maybe in 2010, the AIA will come up with a similar alignment. If so, believe me, I’ll be pointing out it was seen here first, back in 2009. 🙂

Follow Up to High School Football

This is a follow-up to the High School Football post I wrote on 8/31/08.

I said:

The columnists that cover high school sports are only interested in covering the Phoenix-metro big schools (4A/5A). They have one or two folks that attempt to cover everything else (1A – 3A) and they fail miserably. You can follow the threads on multiple forums about how bad their coverage is, how badly they mess up their team rankings due to being uninformed, and how apathetic they are when it comes to anything that resides outside Maricopa County.

This past Monday, the Repugnant’s rankings came out for 2A and lo, a Phoenix-area school was #1 (Phoenix Christian) to nobody’s surprise. This, despite the fact that PC has played two games against awful opponents: Westwind Prep, a perennial 2A bottom-feeder, and Williams Field, a team that is playing varsity football for the first time ever and has NO SENIORS on its team. The Repugnant picked this PC team over a dominating St. Johns team (2-0, both wins over powerhouses: week 1 over Thatcher, and week 2 over Round Valley, which is a powerhouse school in the next higher conference (3A)).

If anyone doubts how bad the Repugnant is for high school coverage at this point, they seriously need to take a step back and visit a different newspaper, like maybe the Yuma Sun.

High School Football and the Politics of Coverage

The Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) has announced a “partnership” with the Arizona Repugnant:

“ have unveiled a partnership that makes the state’s only site to feature every score and schedule for all AIA member schools in each sport, providing the most comprehensive, updated coverage.”

Yeah, no. This was announced this psat Thursday. In yesterday’s (Saturday’s) edition, there was absolutely NO coverage of high school football. So much for this vaunted partnership. still provides more information, more up-to-date scores, and more in-depth analysis than anything the misinformed hacks at the Repugnant could come up with.

The 24-7 site’s admins are on recruiters’ speed-dial. The coaches prefer to deal with the 24-7 folks over newspaper columnists any day of the week. The AIA has proven themselves to be three-years behind the times in everything technology-related. This “announcement” is just Much Ado About Nothing.

The columnists that cover high school sports are only interested in covering the Phoenix-metro big schools (4A/5A). They have one or two folks that attempt to cover everything else (1A – 3A) and they fail miserably. You can follow the threads on multiple forums about how bad their coverage is, how badly they mess up their team rankings due to being uninformed, and how apathetic they are when it comes to anything that resides outside Maricopa County.

Which brings me to Geoff Grammer of the Tucson Citizen.

Now, I love the Citizen. I used to work there. I fondly look back on that place as the place that gave me a chance to get into the work force and show what I could do. The people were top-notch. The writing made me almost want to be a journalist (if the pay was close to technology, I probably would’ve switched). The editors knew what they were doing.

And now they have Geoff Grammer who has the title of “Varsity Sports Editor”.

I had posted on his site, and, of course, my post had a link back to the DKC Rankings. He did actually link back to the rankings, so I emailed him a quick thank you. However, in that thank you, I raised a question to him: (sent on 9/18/07)

Looks like you linked the DKC ratings. Thanks for that.

I been meaning to ask – why is it that the Citizen, which always has the best HS coverage anyway in S. Arizona, always seems to omit the 1A / 2A / 3A schools?

It’s not like Tucson and the surrounding area doesn’t have small schools –

St. David
(Tucson) Tanque Verde
(Elfrida) Valley Union

(Oro Valley) Pusch Ridge Christian

(Tucson / Vail) Empire

The Citizen reports on Casa Grande and Buena (both in different counties), why not the rest of the schools in Cochise county and those actually in Pima county?

Prior to this email in 2007, under Grammer’s “reign”, the Citizen’s Varsity sports largely ignored the small schools in Southern Arizona, despite the profession that the Citizen was the voice of Southern Arizona. You can look back to this date (9/18/07) and see the coverage of small schools increased dramatically from that point onward. AND the coverage is way better than the Repugnant. Now, I can’t imagine how long Grammer had been there prior to my email, but it was very disappointing to see this lack of coverage, which is why I had to ask him what was going on.

Mr. Grammer never deigned to respond to that email.

However, he did post on his blog after Sunnyside shut out Salpointe 17-0 in week 4 of 2007 and instead of moving UP in the rankings, Sunnyside dropped from #2 to #3:

An interesting note… the DKC rankings aren’t subjective at all. They’re based on a formula of some sort, which has to be why Sunnyside, after a 17-0 shutout of a 5A-I Salpointe team, dropped in the rankings this past week.

So I responded with a pretty straightforward explanation of what actually happened, which was because Marcos de Niza thumped Yuma by 39 points and moved up to #2. Wasn’t anything that SS did wrong, it was because de Niza did it right. (Again, Mr. Grammer sent no response.)

Ever since then, Mr. Grammer has been very standoffish about what I do and where I fit in the grand scheme of things. The link from his site “mysteriously” disappeared as well. [EDIT: The link was on one specific blog, and it has since “rolled” off. I have found it and readded it here.]

Now however, Mr. Grammer has begun posting on the 24-7 site (as of today 8/30/08, Mr. Grammer has exactly _28_ posts to his name. Yes, _28_.) Yet, Mr. Grammer has only posted in the big school forum (4A/5A). I guess, once again, the small schools are beneath him. It’s actually sorta sad, because he’s posting there but his posts consist of “Here’s my So. Arizona Top 10 for the week, for anyone who cares.” (That’s verbatim, by the way.) And there are responses to the tune of “Southern Arizona?” (Again, verbatim.)

So, just like everyone else, I ignore the Arizona Repugnant “rankings”, since they have no clue, and Mr. Grammer’s “rankings” because he just combines all Southern Arizona 4A/5A schools into one “top ten” group, which doesn’t really do anything for anyone. I don’t read Mr. Grammer’s blog anymore because he’s really just a plea for attention (posts on a major forum asking to “check out my list” with a link are pretty self-explanatory). I don’t read the Repugnant’s worthless dribble on high school sports previews/coverage/etc. either.

When I want my info, I go to 24-7 Football, Friday Night Football (3A schools only) or I go to the Arizona Sports Network. 24-7 has the info, FNF has the scoop on the 3A schools, and AZSportsNet has the daily/weekly broadcasts and the experience.

And as of this past Thursday, I’m partnered with AZSportsNet, so it’s even better. They get all the statistics they can handle along with the network of information I’ve uncovered, and I get the benefit of their experience. Win-win. 🙂

Power points tweaked yet again

One of my biggest pet peeves is the use of power points by the Arizona Interscholastic Association in order to determine which teams make the playoffs out of the 213 member schools participating in football.

There’s anywhere from 28-35 teams in each division, and there are seven divisions: 1A (which is 8-man football), 2A, 3A, 4A-II, 4A-I, 5A-II, and 5A-I which encompasses the 27 schools in the state with the largest enrollments or those schools which have traditionally competed in the toughest division (like Brophy Prep or Salpointe Catholic) even though they have smaller enrollments.

Well, in previous years, the AIA used to just have a set number of qualifying teams from each division’s conference make the playoffs, regardless of record. So, if you were in conference B of the 2A division, and your conference was obligated to send 3 teams, if team #3 has a 2-8 record, but team #4 is 0-10, guess who’s going? (Note, this actually happened in 2007 in the 1A conference… go here to see what happened.)

However, in more recent years, the AIA has decided to use Power Points – a decision soundly derided by fans across the state (and several coaches). The AIA’s brain trust came up with the following methodology:

50 points per win, 5 points for each win by opponents if the opponents are same division or higher.

On paper, it seems like a workable plan. In action, the AIA fell flat because they failed to consider several things:

  1. if your team resides in a strong region, you will get the benefit of those region members’ wins
  2. power points reward teams in large conferences for losses more than they reward wins by teams from small conferences, regardless of the opponent’s quality, conference, or division.
  3. they don’t take into account schedule strength
  4. (and this is the killer) only wins over AIA opponents gain “win” points, so a win over an out of state school gains a team zero, and all the wins by THAT team also net zero points.

So, this year the AIA came up with a “much better system”. First, they came up with a “matrix” of point values (you can already see this is a problem – IF YOU HAVE TO CREATE A MATHEMATICAL MATRIX TO EXPLAIN SOMETHING, IT SHOULD BE A SIGN THAT IT WON’T WORK) wherein a team gains a specific number of points for a win depending on the opponent’s division.

The number of points is the same for a win over a team in your division and one division lower. For every division lower than that (two divisions, three divisions) subtract 5 points from the win points (so, a 4A-II over a 4A-II nets 50 points, but a 4A-II over a 2A nets 40 points). For every division HIGHER than yours add 5 points (a 4A-II over a 5A-I nets 65 points, since 5A-I is three divisions higher).

Ah, but now come the “opponent points” or “victory points” – each win by your opponents nets you 5 points if their win is over a team in their same division or one higher/lower, otherwise subtract .5 points (yes, half a point…) for each division lower than the set threshold, and add .5 points for each division higher than the threshold. 5A schools (both 5A-II and 5A-I) get the shaft here because they are the highest divisions, so they can’t get any more than 5 victory points for their opponents’ wins.

So what happens if a team is not an AIA member (like say, a team from Juarez, Mexico, or maybe one from Utah, California, or Nevada)? Your Athletic Director must petition the AIA to recognize that team as a “valid” opponent and the AIA must then label them as a comparable division (like maybe a 3A school) based on the school’s enrollment and current state division – New Mexico, for example, has a divisional breakdown similar to Arizona’s so that would not take as much time as a team from California which has super-conferences and super-regions.

All in all, it sounds like a lot of work, right? It is. And the AIA doesn’t just stop there – it claims it can do “automatic” updates of the Power Points on its website after every weekend slate of games based on the outcomes. Problem – AIA doesn’t actually go out and gather the scores, it asks that the head coaches or representatives of the home team input the final results to the website. And the smaller schools are notorious for NOT doing so in a timely manner.

My question – if this power point system is SO GAWD-DARNED GOOD, why doesn’t the NCAA use it? I mean, that’s the cream of the crop – the top dawgs of the amateur football spectrum, right?

Maybe because the NCAA already knows that IT DOESN’T WORK. The NCAA uses a Selection Committee for Divisions I-AA, II, and III to determine seedings and teams eligible for the playoffs. While the AIA obviously doesn’t have the manpower to do so (yet), it should look to other ways to determine seedings. I’ve come up with one (link here), but I would love to be on a Selection Committee as well. The question is, who else would – or should – be on that committee? That, I don’t have an answer to.