Four team districts possible

By Greg Price: CNJ sports writer

The New Mexico Activities Association is considering a proposal that would require at least four teams in all districts as part of its realignment process.

Concerns about the level of competition and the number of automatic playoffs bids awarded to three-team districts influenced the association’s call for a minimum of four schools per district, according to NMAA director of football operations Mario Martinez.

Clovis athletic director Brian Stacy is in favor of the proposal, citing competitive reasons. The Wildcats have played in a three-team district — the only one in Class 5A — the last two seasons.

“Who wants to be in a small district?” Stacy said. “What happens is the teams that are on the bottom tend to stay there, and vice versa for the teams at the top.

“Other teams look at our district and say it’s easy to get out of because there are so few teams. Something needs to be done.”

Alamogordo would join Clovis, Hobbs and Carlsbad in District 4-5A under the proposal, school officials said.

Alamogordo athletic director Lawrence Johnson strongly objects to switching from its current five-team, Las Cruces-based district.

Johnson said the distance between the schools and missed class time are behind the Tigers’ protests.

“The fact that we can get to the other teams in our current district in 90 minutes is a huge factor,” Johnson said. “And the idea is you create rivalries in your district. We’ve created rivalries that translate into a nice turnout at our games.”

Some feel it is unfair three-team leagues such as Clovis’ earned the same number of automatic playoff berths — two — as the bigger districts that have five and six teams, Martinez said.

“We feel the three-team districts have a difficult time, especially in sports like basketball and volleyball, to have a meaningful schedule at the end of the season,” Martinez said. “But it’s hard to convince the Alamogordos of the world to travel.”

Clovis boys basketball coach J.D. Isler is also in favor of switching to a four-team district due to more competition, and said the greater distance between schools would not affect his team.

“We’re used to traveling, and Albuquerque schools don’t have to travel because they have so many schools near them,” Isler said. “I think it’s going to be a benefit because it makes for better competition.”

From 2000 to 2004, two Albuquerque schools would rotate into District 4-5A every two years with Clovis, Hobbs and Carlsbad.

Alamogordo and other schools will have several chances to express their concerns to the NMAA until September, when the board of directors will make its final decision, according to NMAA director of public relations Robert Zayas.

“We’re trying to allow everybody to have input,” Zayas said. “We don’t want anyone to think they’re voice isn’t heard.”

Zayas said districts are realigned every two years due to fluctuating enrollment at schools and to ensure a level playing field.

By comparison, Texas realigns districts every year with schools getting no say in the process, Zayas said.