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AIA board holds 1st Zoom meeting since spring sports canceled

April 21, 2020 by Jose Garcia, AZPreps365


On Monday, the Arizona Interscholastic Association's executive board met for the first time since schools closed for the remainder of school year due to COVID-19.

Among the big topics the 10-member board addressed in a Zoom meeting was the formation of an a AIA crisis management team and how the likely high legal fees from a court case will be paid. The crisis team, comprised of AIA conference chairs, is helping outline the association's next steps during the pandemic, AIA Executive Director David Hines said.

There's no word yet if students will be allowed to return to school in the fall. When the state does give the order to reopen the schools, Hines said he asked a member of the AIA’s Community Advisory Committee if he can schedule a meeting with a governor's office representative.

Once that happens, the governor's office recommendations will dictate the AIA's crisis team's course of action. After sitting in on a call with state business leaders and the governor, Hines said the return to schools will likely happen during the third phase of the state's reopening plans.

AIA Executive Board president Jeannine Brandel volunteered Monday to serve on the crisis team. Hines also told the board that the AIA’s court cost will be about $100,000 in a case involving three AIA member schools that are requesting to remain in specific football conferences. Under the new AIA football rules, teams that perform very well during their previous three seasons will start moving up a conference.

The pending case will start on May 7. The anticipated court costs exceed the amount of money kept in an AIA legal fund.

With that, the board discussed a potential emergency action in which member schools would split the cost (about $270 per school among the 270-plus members). Additional discussion included future legal costs if an AIA member school takes the association to court.

All board members will speak with their conference leaders regarding this.

“If we are going to defend our membership, then the membership needs to pay some legal fees,” Hines said.

This is the first time in more than 20 years that AIA members took legal action against the AIA, said AIA legal counsel Mark Mignella.

Recent court cases were initiated by parents. In May, after the AIA’s board members talk with its conference representatives, it will determine if the AIA will bill schools at the end of each school year for legal fees.

The AIA also will present to the board in May a declaration form that states schools understand and agree to follow the rules the AIA’s members have established. The AIA would like every athletic director, principal and superintendent to sign the form, Hines said.

Board against allowing seniors play 1 more season

During Hines’ monthly report to the board, he also noted that some parents have asked the AIA if their spring sports high school seniors can compete during the next school year.

The coronavirus pandemic ended the high school careers of those seniors abruptly. The executive director said that unlike the NCAA, the AIA doesn’t have redshirts, grayshirts, blueshirts and or greenshirts.

“That’s not what we do from an educational athletic standpoint,” Hines said.

The board members agreed.

“I just think this was out of our control,” board member Dr. Michael Fowler said. “It is sad that those (seniors) will miss out on those opportunities, but that’s something that we as an association can’t rectify. There’s no way to reasonably do that. It’s sad, but we just need to move forward.”

Financial report

Denise Doser, the AIA’s director of finance, said during her monthly report that the AIA is ahead budget-wise compared to last year, which ended with a slight deficit for the AIA.

But the AIA still has to “absorb” a sports year without spring sports.

“We don’t know how things will shake out with our AIA partners (sponsorship deals) and revenue from the schools,” Doser added.

Doser also advised the board that she received emails from schools inquiring about participation fee refunds since a majority of the spring sports season was cancelled.

Some service charges will be incurred because some spring events were held up until March 14. Doser and the AIA are working on a response for the schools regarding their refund questions.

“As far as the dues and fees, it represents your membership dues in a scaled structure as far as the sports you participate in,” Doser said. "That creates your membership dues.”

New program to retain, recruit officials

Brian Gessner, the AIA’s state commissioner of officials, unveiled a new program aimed at recruiting and retaining officials.

Under the program, current AIA officials can earn credit if they recruit new officials. The credit will go toward the $40 sports fee they pay.

If a recruited official comes back for a second season, the recruiter's $40 sports fee will be waived. The veteran official will be allowed a maximum of three credits.

“This incentive is just going to enhance the number of new officials we get,” Gessner said.

There is a shortage of officials, but Gessner is expecting an uptick with the help of the new program and because of the economic downturn.

Team tournament approved for girls wrestling

Girls wrestling was rewarded with its own state championship tournament.

The board unanimously voted to approve a team state meet for girls and remove the emerging sport tag. Participation grew during the first two seasons of the sport.

Only individual state medals were awarded, but during the next school year teams will also now compete in one division for the team crown.

AIA to launch campaign for medical workers, restaurants

On Tuesday, the AIA launched its #FeedTheFrontlineAZ campaign to help support medical workers and restaurants during the pandemic.

The goal is to raise $50,000 to help purchase meals and gift cards for medical staff and other essential workers as well as support Arizona restaurants. The meals and gift cards will be distributed throughout the state.

Awards ceremony to be held online

The annual AIA Champions Gala at State Farm Stadium was rescheduled, but the AIA is still planning to recognize its outstanding students and leaders.

It will do so during a virtual event with help from the Arizona Cardinals. The exact date hasn't been determined but will happen during the first two weeks in May.

Notes

The Wrestling Sports Advisory Committee's recommendation for how divisions and sections will be realigned during the 2020-22 seasons was approved.

Division I and II will each have 48 teams, with 12 team in each section to avoid a potential sixth match at sections. Division III will carry 52 teams. Geography and the strength of programs will determine which teams get placed in the 12, 13, 13 and 14 team sections in D-III. But coaches familiar with the schools can reconfigure the sections. The chance of a sixth sectional match in three sections is small.

Division IV will increase to 61 teams. Each section will have between 14-16 teams, and the chance for a sixth sectional match in three sections is also small.

The sections are subject to revision by the AIA and or the Wrestling Committee.

The following agenda items were also approved:

  • Two AIA lifetime passes.
  • Mohave’s swim request to move from D-II to D-III.
  • North Pointe’s cancellation fine appeal.
  • A warning for Sabino’s girls tennis program. A transfer student participated in a match before 50 percent of the team’s regular season was completed.