Photo Courtesy of Nero Nuez ’25
This year, the AIA, or Arizona Interscholastic Association, has implemented open playoffs for two major high school sports this year: basketball and track and field.
Originally, Basketball Coach Mr. Matt Hooten wasn’t a big fan of the open division ideas. “I actually voted against the open division,” said Mr. Hooten, “I liked the conference playoffs with the competition that they had.”
The old format of basketball playoffs would consist of teams going into a 16 team bracket based on the division they were in. If your team is good enough, you get put into the open division bracket which includes schools from 4A, 5A, and 6A divisions.
Most other coaches around the valley liked the open division, which meant that the open division would become a reality from the 2022-23 high school basketball season.
Once Mr. Hooten knew about this, his mindset shifted to “how can we make the best open division process that we can.” With this mindset, Mr. Hooten and Saint Mary’s Basketball Coach David Lopez presented an idea for an open division playoff system to the AIA.
In the basketball open division playoff system, the AIA takes the eight highest ranked teams from each division and then eight at large teams, which are the eight highest ranked teams in terms of power points. Those 32 teams selected are in the bracket for open division playoffs.
On the flip side, the new track and field open division state championship, which was also implemented for the first time this year, is completely different from the basketball open division playoffs. In track and field, there are no playoffs; only a state championship meet.
There is still the original division one state championship meet which Brophy would compete in but there is also a “super state meet.”
Although there is a open division state championship this year, Track and Field Coach Mr. Oscar Borboa ’05 says the team isn’t going to prepare differently. “It doesn’t change anything for how we prepare,” said Mr. Borboa, “but it does change how athletes set goals they have for championship season.”
Unlike Mr. Hooten, Mr. Borboa has been a proponent of a “super state meet” for a couple of years. “Most likely, the super state meet winner is going to be a division one or division two school,” said Mr. Borboa, “and I get how it might knock down some of the smaller schools but in terms of what is most exciting for the sport…is getting all of the best kids in the same [meet] together.”
Whether it’s running on the track or shooting on the court, these open divisions playoffs and state championships continue to expand to different sports and give kids from smaller schools the opportunity to perform on a bigger stage.