NMAA boss: Three-team districts in tough spot

By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent

Editor’s note: New Mexico Activities Association Executive Director Gary Tripp just finished his second year head of the governing body for the state’s high school athletics championships. During Tripp’s tenure as executive director, postseason for sports have been expanded to include 16 teams, tournament were seeded and the two largest classifications (4A and 5A) have expanded from four to five districts.

Q: There have been a lot of changes the last few years. Do you wish there was a little more continuity?

A: We’re really looking forward to some continuity, but there’s still going to be some changes. Baseball and softball have some ideas of how to change the state tournament. There’s probably going to be a few more changes, but the seeding format — there will be some continuity there.

Q: Other than basketball, why has the decision been made to reduce state tournaments from 16 down to 12 teams?

A: In the smaller divisions (Class 3A and 4A), we have classifications that are close to only 16 teams. Is it fair that almost 100 percent of those participating are qualifying, while in another division 75 to 80 percent are qualifying? We’re trying to set up some kind of consistency. The other part of that (decision) is the economic impact. In football, in particular, there were scores that were spread out — like 80 to 8, 78 to 12 — where those (losing) teams had to travel totally across the state. Four to five to six hours, which is a huge financial cost to those districts.

Q: In many small towns, the girls begin playing volleyball with the start of the school year. The boys, however, often aren’t in athletic competitions until basketball season rolls around. Do you think the addition of another football classification, 8-man football, will lead some schools to add that as a sport?

A: We really believe so. From listening to the schools, we’re not only going to see an increase in 6-man, but an increase in 8-man football. I think we’re going to see an increase of about 10 schools or so in the next couple of years.

Q: Not many people in the current three-team districts are very happy about the arrangement. Is there any chance that will change?

A: The difficulty right now is, while there’s new schools going in, there’s not any in the southeast part of the state. It’s going to be difficult to have any changes in the near future. We are trying to establish some continuity with district alignments and classifications. I don’t see, in the short future, how to solve that. It’s unfortunate; I understand where they’re coming from. But what we’re trying to be about is clock-time and as little travel as possible. I don’t know how to solve that one. That’s the most difficult problem in the state of New Mexico, because we are the fifth-largest state (in area) in the union.

Q: Is there anything you would like to see happen in the next few years?

A: One of my dreams is that with the basketball tournament we look at The Pit, Tingley Coliseum and Rio Rancho auditorium — I think we can use those arenas for 90 percent of the tournament. I think our fans, in the state of New Mexico, will enjoy it and will come in even greater numbers. There’s going to be a couple of other exciting things. I’ve always had this dream of boys volleyball in the state of New Mexico — that might be down the road.
The addition of bowling, the addition of Junior ROTC with state championships and the addition of rodeo I think is going to be exciting. We’re going to put on our first state rodeo in June in Gallup. I was down in Elida and they were excited to hear that.