RENO — Eddie Bonine, executive director of the NIAA, announced Wednesday that all of Thursday’s outdoor athletic contests have been canceled as a result of poor air quality, and that a decision on Friday and Saturday events will be made no later than 1 p.m. Thursday.
Locally, that could affect Carson’s season-opener at Hug on Friday as well as the boys trip to Galena on Friday and Saturday for a soccer tournament. It also could affect the Douglas Class cross country races set for Friday afternoon in Lampe Park.
Bonine pointed out that the NIAA has to maintain an safe and healthy environment for players, coaches, officials, game workers and spectators.
“In conversations with local and state officials, the present level of poor air quality may be with us for a period of time,” said Bonine, who pointed out that the Rim fire was 23 percent contained, as of Wednesday evening. “County-to-county, day-to-day and hour-to-hour the (air quality index) may vary and can change as the wind gusts so it makes it difficult to be positive at this point. We’re going one day at a time.
“This is a major concern we all should share. The last 10-12 days we’ve relied on districts and their athletic directors in making determinations. With the number of phone calls we have received, the consensus has now shifted and it seems the “determination for participation” has shifted to the NIAA now that games, spectators and officials are involved. We’re in uncharted water. The people I work for haven’t see stuff like this before.”
Bonine said that the NIAA put a minimum standard air quality index chart on its website, and he said that his office will work with superintendents from Carson City and Douglas, Lyon, Storey, Churchill and Washoe counties in making participation determinations based on those numbers. As of 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, the AQI in the Reno-Sparks area was 169. For games to be played it has to be 100 or lower.
“We’ve established a grid,” Bonine said. “I took it (the chart) from a friend of mine in Idaho, who was gracious enough to share it with us. It’s similar to what people would see on airnow.gov. It’s not an end all to be all. It’s a minimum standard guide and what we’ll be basing decisions on. It’s a minimum standard. It can be changed and looked at by every district.”
Besides the poor air quality, Bonine also said that he’s worried whether football teams are ready to play physically after being forced inside to practice. He said that indoor practices does not serve well to prepare players to compete.
If football games are canceled and aren’t made up later in the season, schools stand to lose some significant money, a fact not lost on the NIAA.
“This is not a decision made lightly,” said Donnie Nelson, NIAA assistant commissioner. “It has financial implications for a great many people. Football only has so many home games, so you are losing gate and snack bar receipts.”
Nelson pointed out that this weekend’s games were Hall of Fame games where gate proceeds are turned over by the school to the NIAA, which helps the organization fund its Hall of Fame activities. To lose gate proceeds from approximately 15 games is definitely significant.
Bonine said that he wouldn’t stand in the way of schools switching sites to get games in, or even going to a neutral site.
Bob Bateman, Carson High athletic director, said that he was going to call Hug this morning and discuss options.
“I don’t think they would accept moving the game,” Bateman said. “It’s their home game, they were supposed to name the field in honor of Rollins Stallworth (former Hug coach). I’ll call them and ask if they have a Plan B.”
Carson’s football team has an open date in October, but Hug doesn’t have the same date off. Bateman said trying to find an opponent on a bye week that late in the year is tough, and coach Blair Roman said he’d prefer not to play that day.
Bonine said that McQueen is going to Grass Valley to play Nevada Union even though the Lancers were supposed to have a home game. Washoe County administrators present at the meeting admitted having concerns about the air quality in California.
If the smoke hangs around into next week it would put week 2 games in serious jeopardy. Bateman indicated that he will be talking to colleagues at other schools about possible neutral-site games. Some games might have to be shifted to Thursdays or Saturdays if that happens.