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Judge finds in favor of AIA; Football scheduling can move forward

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Here is the step by step breakdown of the order handed down by Judge Lisa Daniels Flores, Superior Court of Arizona – Maricopa County.

Northwest Christian (NCS) sought an injunction against the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) on January 30, 2020 and Benjamin Franklin Charter (BFCS) and the Round Valley Unified School District (RV) joined the lawsuit in an attempt to seek relief from conference realignments based on an amended bylaw, the denial of their appeals to stay in their preferred conferences and to prevent the AIA from constructing a football schedule.

Judge Lisa Daniels Flores found:

Membership in the AIA is voluntary and the AIA has an Executive Board consisting of ten representative members along with a 48-member Legislative Council that meets every March and member schools must abide by the rules and regulations of the AIA.

The AIA promotes safety for student athletes with an established Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC). Dr. John Kearney is an established physician and member of the SMAC. He has also been the team physician for Centennial and Peoria since 2006. Dr. Kearney testified that competitive equity causes an unsafe situation, not smaller players playing bigger players or from playing offense and defense.

The judge placed more weight on Dr. Kearney’s testimony than the plaintiff’s expert because, in part, it was “…not based on sufficient data or any generally accepted scientific standards or guidelines.”

“Although plaintiffs now claim a concern about safety of their student athletes when they play teams from larger schools, in the recent past all three Plaintiff schools voluntarily scheduled and played games against schools with higher enrollment.”

From 2017-2019 NCS had a combined record of 32-6, BFCS had a record of 31-8 and RV’s record was 34-6 with a state championship. None of the witnesses for the Plaintiffs expressed concern about safety from playing larger schools and it “seriously undercut their current claims regarding safety.”

The AIA Executive Board commissioned a Football Reclassification Committee (FRC) in 2018. The FRC consisted of three members from each of the six conferences, made up of Athletic Directors and current or former football coaches. Minutes from the meetings show “safety” as the priority concern. The Legislative Council voted in favor of the amended reclassification model 37-1 with RV’s superintendent voting in favor of the change. The process was not “arbitrary and capricious.”

NCS, BFCS and RV “..dominated their opponents in their respective Conferences over the past three years..” NCS and BFCS were moved from 3A to 4A and RV from 2A to 3A. 5 of the 18 reclassification appeals were approved, showing each appeal was decided on its merit.

A release from the AIA:

“Representatives of the AIA conferences may now begin entering football schedules into the online system. All schedules will hopefully be ready by the end of the week. Recommendations from the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee regarding return to play will be presented next week.”

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Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014, he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017, a 2019 AZ Education News award winner and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. He was the first in Arizona to write about high school beach volleyball and high school girls wrestling. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy is the Southern Arizona voting member of the Ed Doherty Award, recognizing the top football player in Arizona, and he was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Andy was named an Honorary Flowing Wells Caballero in 2019. Contact Andy Morales at amoralesmytucson@yahoo.com

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