Officially, high school athletics is in its summer hiatus. But at the Deseret News, we're evaluating last year's coverage and looking at areas of improvement in our prep-sports coverage for the 1989-90 school year.
While there is plenty that we can do, here's a half-dozen items that we have no control over but would still like to see considered:1. More colorful, imaginative league names throughout the state.
The current high school league labels - Regions 1 through 13 - have as much pizazz as generic saltines. Why not names that instead reflect the regions and their respective geography, history or other elements of local interest?
Perhaps there would be a little more pride, tradition and even stability in membership if the leagues had more interesting, descriptive names.
2. Earlier starting times for Friday night prep football games.
While we can't buck the trend of moving games to "prime time," why not kickoff times no later than 7 p.m.?
With more emphasis on passing and increased on-the-field attention given to potentially serious injuries (read: more injury-related delays), games starting at 7:30 p.m. are getting over no earlier than 10 p.m. - and often much later. If only administrators could realize that merely moving their games up a half hour to a 7 p.m. starting time means more comprehensive coverage in terms of beating media deadlines - not only ensuring more complete information being available sooner for the major metropolitan newspapers but also providing more scores for area TV and radio sports broadcasts, too.
A postscript: Remember, one of the best-attended games last fall was the Alta-Brighton contest that drew 4,000-plus - at 3 p.m., no less.
3. More qualified, certified athletic trainers at more games.
Didn't we learn a valuable lesson with the neck injury of Mountain Crest's Kevin Andersen at this spring's 3A basketball tournament and the prompt paralysis-avoiding treatment provided by an attending athletic trainer? Or is it going to take a mega-money lawsuit against a school, a coach, or the Utah High School Activities Association to really wake us up?
Schools and the UHSAA ought to make trainers mandatory at all regular-season and postseason football, basketball and soccer games and wrestling matches for starters, with other sports and then even practices to follow.
4. Forget any notion about a fifth school-size classification.
The last thing we need is a set of 5A state tournaments to add to an already overloaded sports calendar. And a fifth classification dilutes even more the definition of a state champion.
Four size classifications are plenty for Utah. In fact, it's perhaps one too many.
5. Eliminate the four-day tournament format for 4A and 3A boys' basketball.
Semantically speaking, the 4A tournament is spread over six days, with the first two rounds divided over four days. But several teams in the second (or lower) bracket still end up playing on three consecutive nights.
So can the best team, in these run-and-gun times, really come forward in three or even four straight days of competition? And isn't the UHSAA missing out on a gold mine - of interest as well as of financial considerations - by not spreading the four or six days of competition over two weekends?
More interest could be cultivated over a longer period of time, players could be rested, and less classtime would be missed by students attending the games. The first-round games - often poorly attended - could be scheduled at more cost-effective sites such as large, neutral high schools or perhaps even UVCC, with the championships being saved for the final weekend at the major-college centers.
6. More media-minded efforts by the UHSAA.
There's more to media relations than handing writers a state-tournament program and suggesting they plug the corporate sponsors in their reports.
The UHSAA is scratching only the surface with limited success - for example, the composite schedules for some of the major sports mailed to the media were for only the Wasatch Front schools from Payson on north; the statistical crew at the 4A basketball tournament went home before the box scores of the championship game were copied and distributed to waiting reporters; and the use of host-school principals in reporting the results of state tournaments conducted in outlying areas seemed to work only about half the time.
Meanwhile, there still remains a need for a common clearing house for even the simplest of information, starting with game scores.
With the participation of tens of thousands of athletes, coaches and administrators, the UHSAA's real potential is people power. How about at least a part-time staffer for PR duties, because the directors now are having to add makeshift PR responsibilities to their already busy schedules.
A PR-oriented assistant would be the first step in establishing an effective communications network, with subsequent levels including college students serving internships with the UHSAA for course credit and high school students serving as volunteers in reporting school or region results to both the local and metro media outlets. Then perhaps the most diligent of the students could be recruited to work at the state meets, making the possibilities and potential of such a cost-effective PR network quite intriguing.