It will be the North vs. the South

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As far as I'm concerned it's still a state tournament.

It's all but a done deal that the state title game in most high school sports in Nevada will be a North-South matchup, beginning in 2003-2004. The new format will effectively end how state tournaments in the various sports are now conducted.

This will be the last year in which multiple teams from the Northern and Southern regions will advance to a state tournament in all classes -- 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A.

The new format has been discussed by the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association Board and will be discussed again at the board's meeting in December. The board is expected to approve the new format for 2003-2004 at its February meeting.

Beginning next year, one team from the Northern region playoffs and one team from the Southern region playoffs will advance to the state title game.

The reason is simple: It's just not cost-effective for school districts, particularly the Washoe and Clark County districts, to send multiple teams to a state tournament.

"That will save them $1,000s upon $1,000s of travel costs," said NIAA assistant director Donnie Nelson. "Yes it is driven by larger school districts. But it will benefit all the school districts."

The only drawback is that not as many students will realize the experience of a state tournament. "That's a tough compromise," Nelson said.

Psychologically, yes. But as far as I'm concerned, any team that makes the regional playoffs in the North or South will be playing in the state playoffs.

"That does fall under the umbrella of a state tournament," Nelson said.

The format that Nevada is adopting is similar to the format in California. The state tournament is divided into Northern and Southern Regional playoffs with the winner of each region playing for the state title. In California, any school that advances to the playoffs considers itself to be playing in a state tournament.

It's likely that a true Northern 4A title football game that's a state semifinal contest would actually be a bigger financial success than the state championship game. In 2000, the Wooster-McQueen state title game drew 10,000 fans, the largest in memory for a state championship game. Last year's McQueen-Las Vegas state title game drew about half that.

On another note, it's still unknown if the state title game on Dec. 7 will be held at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. If not, it will be held at a Las Vegas-area site.

In 2004, the baseball and softball state titles would be decided by a best 2-of-3 series between the Northern and Southern champions.

The state events for swimming, track, golf and cross country would also be scaled back in 2003-2004. In the 4A division, only the top three in each event from the three regions would advance to the state championships in swimming and track. The top five now advance.

In 4A cross country and golf, the number of teams advancing to the state event from each region would be reduced from three to two. The number of individuals not on qualifying teams to advance to state would remain at the top five in each sport, although that's not set in stone, Nelson said.

As far as realignment is concerned, the four divisions will essentially remain in tact for football, beginning in 2004-2005, Nelson said. But Nelson said the NIAA is looking at scaling back to three divisions in all other sports, beginning in 2004-2005. The NIAA board will also vote on that proposal in February.

The divisions would look something like 0-350 students for 1A, 351-1,200 students for 2A and above 1,200 for 3A, Nelson said.

It's been written in this popcorn stand before that the NIAA should look at dividing the divisions so a school that has less than 500 students wouldn't have to face the school the size of 1,200 students.

But upon further review, there are simply not enough schools between the size of 500-1,000 students that could make up their own division. "We're a very unique state," Nelson said.

There are also always going to be schools like Lowry, which may be considered a little too large for 3A, but certainly not big enough for 4A. As it stands now, there are only 13 schools in the state's 3A division.

Charles Whisnand is the Nevada Appeal Sports Editor.


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