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UHSAA board listens, then votes to realign

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Deseret Morning News graphic

MIDVALE — One by one, administrators from Dugway to Dixie and Logan to St. George have come to the microphone over the past few months to plead for special consideration as the Board of Trustees of the Utah High School Activities Association contemplated how to realign the state's regions and classifications.

Every story was heartfelt, and each speaker sincerely hoped his or her school's unique circumstances would be a factor in the final decision. Monday the board listened to eight presentations one last time before voting on a final realignment proposal that passed 15-9 despite the protest of the smaller 3A and 1A representatives.

"Just status quo," said Bobbie Killpack of region 8, who tried to amend the final template several ways, including having two 3A championships or moving schools larger than 1,000 students to 4A. "Let's not worry about equity."

While there are some significant changes, the board tried to leave as much of the current alignment intact as possible. The final template proposes a region of Utah County teams that will play in the 5A classification. The schools in that region are American Fork, Lone Peak, Mountain View, Pleasant Grove, Spanish Fork and Timpanogos.

Woods Cross and Bountiful will move to what is now region 4 in 4A, while Cottonwood and Granger will move from 5A to 4A and compete in place of Woods Cross and Bountiful against the current region five schools. Most of the 3A regions change somewhat, while 2A remains much the same. In 1A, there will be no more Region 16 north and south, but instead a region 19, which is made up of East Carbon, Green River, Monticello, Monument Valley, Navajo Mountain and Whitehorse.

The motion to approve the final template, which will be up for a final vote at the body's June 10 meeting, was made by Region 3 representative Lynn Davidson. In his motion to approve the template he stipulated that the UHSAA staff will study how a ranking system might be used to move larger 3A schools into 4A post-season play. But without solid plans for how that would happen, the idea that 3A schools larger than 1,000 would play in the 4A state tournament seemed to lose favor with representatives from the other classifications.

That frustrated some of those representing smaller 3A schools.

"There are ways (seeding) has been done," said Killpack. "It can work."

But others rejected both the idea that 3A schools should divide into smaller and larger divisions for the state tournament, and that 3A schools larger than 1,000 students should move up to 4A for post-season play. Among the concerns surrounding the suggested two 3A titles was extra cost, inability to find enough sites for state tournaments and diluting the classes so much that state titles become less meaningful. Others were concerned that seeding would be complicated and controversial and make region play almost irrelevant.

"Olympus is 51 years old, and you know how many basketball championships they've won? Zero," said Davidson. "They've won two football championships . . . This idea that kids need to win a state championship — I don't buy it."

Killpack countered that she felt compelled to speak out on behalf of the smaller 3A schools who are tired of competing for state titles against schools sometimes double their size.

"We've tried very hard to deal with what you put on us (population ranges)," she told other board members before the vote. "This is not just the high school; it's the whole town. And whether you want to admit it or not, it does matter if they win."

Another representative suggested going back to an earlier template that went strictly by population and put seven 3A schools in 4A, including several Washington County schools.

"If they're in the numbers, they should have to travel," added region 12's Tom Hales.

With the final vote only the smaller 3A schools and some 1A representatives voted against the final template that includes the promise of a study to decide whether seeding or two 3A titles would work.

E-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com