NIAA stays with the status quo

RENO - Executive Director Eddie Bonine said the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association had a chance to think "outside the box."

Instead, the Board of Control relied more on its regulations and decided Wednesday at its quarterly meeting in Reno to keep the status quo on Nevada's four high school athletic leagues when the next realignment cycle begins in 2008. Each league is divided by enrollment, a practice that has been in effect for decades.

Churchill County High School will not drop to the Northern 3A as school officials had hoped. Fallon, along with Elko, South Tahoe, Hug and Wooster, will continue to compete in the 17-team Northern 4A.

Bonine said the Board of Control wanted to take a look at other possibilities and received feedback from the affected schools.

"We had schools that were unhappy (with the proposal), so now we've gone in a circle back here today," he said.

Bonine said the decision came back to enrollment figures, so his motion requested schools to compete in athletic classifications based on their official student count in September.

Fallon Athletic Director Brad Daum was noticeably disappointed by the Board of Control's decision.

"We don't want to petition to go down now," Daum said.

Although Daum said Fallon would play in the Northern 3A if Elko and South Tahoe did, officials from those two schools told the NIAA they would prefer to remain in the state's largest athletic division.

"I thought they would make the three of us go down," Daum said.

Prior to Wednesday's vote and March's NIAA meeting in Las Vegas, the Lahontan Valley News had polled coaches and athletes and discovered a majority wanted to play in the Northern 3A. Daum told the Board of Control that Fallon's desire to play in the 3A was not about winning state or regional championships.

"From the competition standpoint, we felt the 3A was the best fit for the majority of our sports," Daum said.

Another blow to the committee's proposal came when a Washoe County School District representative said his district would prefer Hug and Wooster to remain in the Northern 4A.

The NIAA will allow high schools to petition up or down a classification at its September meeting. For example, Bishop Manogue and Bishop Gorman high schools, which have enrollments below the minimum number to play in the Northern 4A, will be allowed to petition up.

Only a remote possibility of the five Northern 4A school dropping to the Northern 3A exists. Superintendent Nat Lommori of the Lyon County School District, a member of the Board of Control, said he would like to see the enrollment numbers for each division change.

"We need to look at adjusting the numbers like Lommori suggested," Daum said. "We're on the fence with over 1,200 enrollment.

The current divisions and their enrollments are as follows: 1A, 0-169; 2A 170-460; 3A, 461-1200; and 4A, 1201 and higher. Fallon's enrollment on count day was 1,313.

When the NIAA first discussed realignment last summer, a process it undertakes every four years, it appointed a committee to look beyond enrollment numbers. The committee spent hours gathering information on travel costs, travel, geographic divisions, finances and natural rivalries.

Bill Darrow, principal of Needles (Calif.) High School and the 2A representative to the NIAA, said the committee wanted the five affected schools to move down to the 3A because of the competition.

"The original intent was for them to be in the 3A because of their numbers," Darrow said. "That's where we thought they could compete better."

Charlie Welch, vice principal at Sparks High School, said the Northern 3A schools were willing to take schools into their league that had strong boys' programs.

"We began looking at the smaller 4A schools that have struggled in their programs - boys and girls," he said. "We were looking to make the Northern 3A more balanced, more competitive."


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