My basketball teams go to the state tournament every year; for reasons known only to God and AIA executive director Harold Slemmer, the tournament is held in faraway Prescott and Prescott Valley. You never know what's going to happen when you get to State. I've had fairly average teams reach the Final Four and I've had killer teams go ice cold and lose in the second round. No matter what happens, I want the girls to know that it's a special experience, one that they should enjoy and cherish.
Right before we leave to come back to Tucson, I have the returning (underclassmen) players gather for a picture in front of Tim's Toyota Center, where the championship games are played. It's a way of saying, "Yeah, we were here this year and we'll be back next year."
I told this to a friend of mine who is in athletics at another school here in town. (I have to keep this vague because he has to deal with the AIA more than I do.) His school was making its first-ever appearance in the volleyball state tournament, so they decided to take all of the kids in the program up to Prescott, perchance to have the younger kids get all fired up and dedicate themselves to returning next year.
Anyway, they take all the kids up there. On game day, they arrive at Tim's at around 7:15 a.m. for their scheduled 8 a.m. start. (Because, as we all know, championship volleyball is best contested when the rising sun is barely clearing the horizon.) They enter Tim's through the rear (team) entrance. As the varsity kids are warming up, my friend goes over to ask whether the JV kids can sit on the bench during the game.
He is told by an AIA official that not only can they not sit on the bench, but that they must exit the building, go around to the other door and pay $6 each to get in to watch the game. (The AIA charges up to $10 for adults at some state tournament events.) The money was paid and the kids got to watch the game.
It could probably be argued that the AIA did the kids a favor. They all want to work real hard in the offseason so their school can make the tournament again next year. That way they won't have to pay to get in.
• Here's the doozy, folks. For generations, Arizona's high schools followed a system of competition that had existed for nearly a century and was used in just about every state in the country. Schools were broken into classes, based (with a few exceptions) on school enrollment. Then the classes were broken into conferences or leagues based on geography. Schools would play the teams nearby, establishing great rivalries, and when the season was done, the top two or three teams from each league would advance to the state tournament.
But then some snobs in Phoenix said, "We have leagues up here with five or six good teams while the outlying leagues (in Tucson, Flagstaff or Yuma) might have only one or two. We have to come up with a way to screw over those other leagues."
Thus was born the power-point system. The original was basic. You'd get points for victories, plus a few other points for victories that your opponents racked up. It was lame and somewhat unfair, but it was easy to follow. But then the AIA came up with this other, more convoluted system. It tried to incorporate the concept of Big Data, which is almost always crap.
There was a monster flaw in that system. I tried to explain it to the head guy at the AIA and he said, "What, are you the smartest math guy in the world?" To which I replied, "No there are lots and lots of people smarter than I am in math. But you're not one of them."
That flaw got exposed, but only after several deserving teams were excluded from the state basketball tournament. So what does the AIA do? It signs on with national company MaxPreps, which uses a system that's infinitely more complicated. It uses the results of every game played in the U.S. to determine the power points. I'm sorry, but I don't think what happens in Rhode Island should have anything at all to do with which teams go to State in Arizona. And what my teams do in Arizona should not affect teams in Montana or Iowa.
The new system blew up in the AIA's face a couple of weeks back when the football brackets were announced and were wrong in so many ways. One team that was No. 8 in points heading into the final regular-season game beat the top team in the state and remained at No. 8 because nobody bothered to enter the results into the computer. Another team was announced as the No. 12 seed (the top 16 go to State), and then told an hour later that it was actually No. 18 and wasn't going to State, after all. And so on.
I'm sorry, but people who are drawing six-figure salaries and claiming to be "working for kids" don't do that sort of thing to kids. They just don't.