Posted On: 12/3/18 3:50 PM
Every few years administrators gather together to discuss or propose changes to the landscape of sports in Utah. Utah happens to be that fastest growing state in the country. The 2.03% yearly growth has spawned new schools to pop up in high density populated areas like St. George, Herriman and Eagle Mountain. Although growth is good, that same growth affects rural communities when it comes to sports.
Rural communities are having a hard time competing with schools in Salt Lake and even Utah County. These rural schools don’t usually experience that growth with the exception of South Summit who recently built a new high school do to their extreme growth. These small rural school with excellent traditions seem to always find ways to compete. With the exception of 2016 a small town or rural school has won a basketball state championship. Even with that said, we still seem to hear the same arguments year after year.
Nobody like Charter Schools and nobody like Private Schools. If you want to move up, people get upset. If you want to move down people get upset.
Salt Lake and Utah County schools have the privilege of having students from different boundaries attend their school because there are no boundaries. Students in rural communities simply have to attend their boundary school due to the fact that other schools would be too far to commute to, not to say it hasn’t happened before.
We understand the frustration but not every team can win and not every team can win state every year.
What could be a solution? What compromise could help rural schools and other schools compete with powerhouse programs?
In the past week we have seen some of the best high school basketball in awhile taking place between schools playing up and down classifications. Which leads us to this.
What if the UHSAA offered an “Open Division” The open division will be for teams from any division, any region regardless of enrollment.
This could generate an increase in attendance and other possibilities. The UHSAA would determine an Open Division of 8 to 16 teams and possibly giving # 1 seeds a bye.
It would make more sense to hold home site contest till the final four which would create an electric environment.
This idea could give Utah’s sports a needed boost that it desperately needs.
This could create parody for teams that seem to always dominate their classification. It would open opportunities for other schools to develop and get better and have realistic opportunities to compete for a mythical State Championship.
Criteria could include winning two straight state championships, playing in a state final in three of the previous four years and appearing in the top 10 of the Deseret News, MaxPreps or PrepHoops Rankings rankings for two straight years, including the current one.
The Open Division would also require games to have a shot clock and a 3-man officiating crew.
Region’s would not be required to send more that four teams from their region’s such as Region 4 who could possibly send every team from their region.
If we used our current rankings we would have a Sweet 16 that would consist of something like this:
Top Bracket Bottom Bracket
#1 Pleasant Grove #1 American Fork
# 2 Copper Hills # 2 Olympus
# 3 Bountiful # 3 Davis
# 4 Skyridge # 4 Kearns
# 5 Lone Peak # 5 Jordan
# 6 Westlake # 6 Corner Canyon
# 7 Juan Diego # 7 Timpanogos
# 8 Timpview # 8 Bingham
This would be a great way to keep in mind who plays a better schedule. A team Like Layton Christian who is only a 2A school but has won their region 5 times in a row would be entered in the Open Division. You would exclude a team like Bingham if they decided to opt out of the Open Division so that Region 4 is not completely depleted from all of their teams.
This would create parity across the state and could be a model used for other sports as well. If you look at the teams on this list it creates some fantastic games and match-ups. Remember this is just an example because we know that things will change throughout the year.
States like California are already doing this format and states like Kentucky and Indiana still only have one state champion.
Every team listed above is already playing the best teams in the state as well as outside of the state to get better. How much sweeter would it be to beat the teams on this list and claim a True State Champion.