Marana Unified School District Superintendent Doug Wilson will now serve as president of the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) Executive Board. He had previously served as vice president and is serving his third year on the board.
AIA is the governing organization that oversees high school interscholastic athletics in Arizona. AIA coordinates officials, schedules games and manage postseason tournaments. The organization is also responsible for setting rules and guidelines for schools, coaches and athletes to follow each year.
“It’s an honor,” said Wilson, who is one of 10 members of the executive board to assist the full-time administrators of the AIA.
Wilson does not shy away from the controversies that can follow an organization like AIA. As the governing board for high school athletics, every major decision can be, and usually is, scrutinized.
Wilson knows that with high school sports passions run high, but he hopes to make sure everyone feels like they have true representation on the board.
“It is our desire to do the best of our ability to serve the 272 member schools, their athletes, coaches, administrators and families,” Wilson said.
One of the issues AIA has faced is that it is headquartered in Maricopa County and the majority of participating schools and athletes are located there.
Over the years, complaints from smaller schools statewide have been that AIA favors the Phoenix schools. Wilson is aware of that perception, but feels the board has gone a long way to address those concerns and will further try to make sure outlying schools have positive feelings for AIA.
“One thing I want to work on is mending trust issues with member schools,” Wilson said. “We’ve already been doing that, but we need to continue. Elevate the level of the experience of all the members. Again, everybody should feel strongly that they have a voice.”
Wilson will not be the only regional voice on the AIA board. Joe Paddock, the athletic director for the Amphitheater School District, is also serving.
“Just knowing that they have representation is important,” said Wilson. “It is nice in a sense from Southern Arizona schools that there are two board members serving from Southern Arizona. It lets them say ‘maybe we do have a voice’.”
Although there are no inherent advantages for the Marana School District schools, Wilson said the teams in his district know he is on the same page with them and they clearly have a voice.
“I do interact with the athletic directors and coaches directly and know their concerns and can bring them directly to the board, not that I haven’t already,” Wilson said. “There is no advantage other than listening to what the (athletic directors) think and feel and being able to convey that.”
“Equity” is a word that Wilson likes to use when talking about things he needs to accomplish over the next year as board president. Although AIA is an organization that has umbrella governance over the entire state, all of the schools and communities are very different. The same organization makes rules for the largest public schools in Mesa and the smaller schools in rural communities.
“We want to make sure everyone feels confident that we have the best interest of the student athletes at heart,” Wilson said. “We want to do right by the student athletes.”
Wilson noted that the board is made up of a very diverse group of individuals, who represent much of the diversity that the overall membership shares. The board has principals, athletic directors and superintendents on it.
In the coming year, the AIA board plans to look at some emerging sports programs to see if they have a place in AIA sports. Sand volleyball has recently become recognized by the AIA and it is rapidly growing, though most of the growth has been in Maricopa County. AIA saw the popularity of the sport in the Olympics and noted that the NCAA was sanctioning the sport and felt it would be a nice draw for students.
Wilson is looking to a number of club sports to see if they would make a positive addition to the student experience.
“We don’t want to interject ourselves into club sports necessarily, but if we can help promote them it might be good,” Wilson said. “We want to make sure that student know there is a place for them.”
Lacrosse, hockey and girls’ flag football were three sports that Wilson noted have been popular club sports, but were not the only ones that needed to be looked at.