AIA to offer eSports as an activity

August 21, 2018 by Jose Garcia, AZPreps365


Arizona high school students can start competing for an eSports state title starting Feb. 2019.

Brian Bolitho, the AIA’s Director of Business Development, made the announcement Monday during the first meeting of the school year for the AIA’s executive board. eSports will join chess, J.R.O.T.C, robotics, speech and debate, spiritline and theatre under the AIA’s activities umbrella.

Arizona students will vie for eSports state titles in Rocket League and League of Legends, two very popular video games. Arizona is home to about 25,000 eSports registered high school competitors, said the AIA’s Executive Director David Hines.

Since the AIA is expecting a lot of students to sign up, it’ll run eSports leagues in the spring and fall high school sports seasons. The fee to compete in the AIA’s eSports leagues for each student is $50.

In League of Legends, opposing school teams will be comprised of five players. In Rocket League, it will be 3 vs. 3.

Teams can remain at their schools while dueling online, and schools can carry as many team members as they want. The AIA partnered with Chicago-based Phoenix Sports to operate the leagues.

Other state associations also are organizing eSports high school leagues, including neighboring New Mexico.

Executive director report

Hines announced that about 20 people will make up each of the AIA’s five committees under the association’s newest strategic plan.

The committees, chaired by an AIA board member, are steering, state wide presence, operation and fiscal, sportsmanship/respect and promotion/branding. The promotion/branding committee’s goal is to recommend ways to get communities and students to rally around 4A-6A Conference schools like at the 1A-3A levels. Getting more fans to attend big school events can help the AIA lower its school fees and give money back to the schools.

Hines reported that another high school association with a similar school population as Arizona's recently distributed $2.5 million to its schools. An update on the committees and recommendations will be made in September, Hines said.

Also included in Hines’ report:

--A 1-2 page AIA executive director report is being sent to superintendents, principals and athletic directors to keep them informed about what’s ahead for the AIA’s members schools.

--The summer National Federation of State High School Associations' meeting in Chicago was one of the best ones Hines has attended, he said. One of the topics that was addressed was Ohio’s transfer rule (Forces transfers to sit out the second half of a football season as well as the playoffs if they transfer for athletic purposes.), board member Jeanine Brandel said.

--Hines thanked Assistant Executive Director Joe Paddock, AIA Sports Administrator Ron Halbach and the 5A-6A Conferences for helping handle most of the 95 fall season hardship appeals at the conference level. So far, 14 of the 33 hardships that were denied have filed an appeal.

The appeals will be heard by the AIA’s board. The board suggested putting more teeth to the appeal process, specifically having in writing that if you don’t have objectively different information than what you presented at the conference level, the board will not hear your appeal.

--Fifty-one more coaches attended the fall meetings compared to last year. A total of 247 football and 950 fall season coaches attended the mandatory AIA preseason meetings this year. Schools that didn’t send a representative to the meetings will be receiving a violation report. Hines thanked Coronado and McClintock High Schools for hosting the events.

Financial report

The AIA’s Director of Finance and Operations, Denise Doser, presented the May, June and July financial statements.

The May and June statements were presented in August because no executive board meetings were held in June and July. The 2017-18 financial statements indicate a positive bottom line for the fiscal year ending June 30, exceeding expectations by 40-45 percent, pending final audit results, Doser said.

The gate receipts were three percent below last year’s numbers for Arizona, but they still exceeded the budget expectation by four percent, Doser added. The AIA held expenses to 98 percent of the budget.

Other items of note:

Scheduling decisions made by the AIA’s member schools helped drop game change fees by nine percent.

--The 2017-18 AIA membership was 100 percent of budget, indicating no net membership change from expectations.

--July’s report reflected normal and customary expenses for the launch of the new school year, as well as the one-time annual membership dues and fees.

--Doser noted that as of Aug. 17, 78 percent of the membership’s dues had been received. This a bylaw requirement before the AIA complementary passes may be released.

Agenda items approved

The following board agenda items were approved:

--Forty-five AIA lifetime passes to coaches, officials and or administrators with at least 25 years of service.

--The master calendar for the 2018-19 school year tournaments.

--The minutes from the board’s May 21 meeting.

--The 5A Conference meeting minutes from its May 17 meeting.

--Eighteen contest and or program cancellation requests, including Catalina Foothills’ varsity cross country programs for boys and girls and junior varsity football program. Lourdes Catholic’s request to rescind its fine for cancelling three varsity contests also was approved during the vote.

--The student eligibility appeals (paper review) and or requests for hardship eligibility (legal guardian) from Perry, Round Valley and Snowflake.

--Additional game requests from 12 schools.

--The recommendation to hold the annual AIA Legislative Council meeting on March 1, 2019. The deadline to submit agenda items is Jan. 25, 2019. The agenda mail-out deadline will be Jan. 31, 2019.

-The Council on Standards For International Educational Travel advisory list that now separates the J-1 and F-1 visa student status from accredited programs.

--Greenway’s request to host a meet prior to the official start date, Aug. 27, for cross country competition.

--Tolleson Union District’s request to rescind a fine against Sierra Linda for cancelling a junior varsity and varsity football game last year. The detailed presentation by Derek Fahleson, District Athletic Director for Tolleson, for rescinding the fine led to a conversation about how to improve the game cancellation fine policy.

The board said that it wants teams that decline a cancellation request from an opponent to list its reasons for doing so.

Agenda items denied

The following agenda items were not approved:

Pusch Ridge Christian Academy’s request to allow its virtual academy students to participate with its school district’s sports teams.

--American Leadership Academy Queen Creek’s request to move its girls basketball program off probation. A student played in a game last year after graduating from a high school in Germany. The vote to keep ALA Queen Creek’s girls basketball program on probation was unanimous. A school on probation can’t participate in the postseason.

--Peoria Unified School District’s request to allow its six schools to participate in an additional tournament in five different sports.

--Marcos de Niza’s request to allow a foreign exchange student to compete.

Media policy update

Seth Polansky, the AIA’s Sports Information Coordinator, updated the board on the new media procedures that will be enforced.

The procedures Polansky added define further the expectations of media members, including students, attending regular season and postseason high school events.

School violations

Advisement for Mesa Mountain View’s football program. The team violated the heat acclimatization rule after wearing their padded girdles earlier than they were supposed to.

Advisement for San Manuel’s activities program. The athletic director didn’t attend the mandatory AD meeting in April.

Advisement for Scottsdale Prep’s beach volleyball program. A player didn’t attend a state tournament match because of a scheduling conflict.

Advisement for the girls tennis program of South Mountain. Two students weren’t able to attend the state tournament after they were entered.

Advisement for the activities program of Apache Junction. A student transferred to Skyline High in Jan. 2017 but returned to Apache Junction in Aug. 2017, violating the transfer rule.

Advisement for Casteel High’s football program. Casteel’s varsity and junior varsity teams stretched and ran with its 7th and 8th grade teams on a secondary field because of a faulty water valve on Casteel’s main field. Only students enrolled at an AIA member school in grades 9-12 are eligible to practice at that member school.

Warning for American Leadership Academy Queen Creek’s football program. The football coach told an ALA Queen Creek 6th grade student via a Tweet that he could come and watch his team after the student and his family asked if ALA Queen Creek’s practices were open to the public. The coach also invited the student to come and meet some players and maybe “do a few drills with us.” In the violation report the school filed, it states that the coach realized he may have violated an AIA bylaw (recruitment rule). The coach contacted the parents and told them that the student was welcomed to view practice but couldn’t meet the players or do any drills, according to the report. The student and parents wound up not attending the practice, according to the report.

Advisement for Rock Point’s cross country program. A cross country coach failed to attend the mandatory fall coaches meeting. A last minute family matter kept the coach from attending and the athletic department was unable to send a representative.

Warning for Northland Preps soccer and swim programs. The soccer and swim coached failed to attend the fall meeting for coaches.

The AIA’s member schools are required to self-report bylaw violations they committed.

The AIA's executive board reviews those violations and recommends a punishment.

An advisement is a word of caution.

A warning places a school in jeopardy of being placed on probation if another violation of any rule or regulation is committed. A school will not be eligible for the Overall Excellence Award during a warning period.

If a school or one of its sports programs is placed on probation, that school/program is ineligible for the postseason and will not receive any award for achievement in that sport. A school is not eligible also for the Overall Excellence Award during its probation period.