RIDING THE PINE: NIAA realignment must be realigned

Steve Puterski

Steve Puterski

As realignment lunges deeper into the spotlight, the sooner the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association must become in being proactive.

A recent amendment to the Southern Nevada Rubric allows four schools — not two as originally drafted — to transition from the Division I to DI-A.

The rubric calculates a school’s success in the form of a point system over a two-year period to determine realignment. Currently, the Northern divisions do not use a rubric.

Instead, each league’s administrators vote to allow a school to realign. North Valleys was given the go-ahead by the Northern DI, but was denied by a 9-0 vote by the Northern DI-A schools to join the league.

In the South, five schools are battling for four spots to move down. And in the next cycle, more schools will push hard to find a better league for its programs.

Take football out of the equation for a minute. The NIAA and its member schools must rethink its classification system.

Sure, the smaller schools use school population as a crutch, and the large schools lean on travel costs, but many of those large schools cannot compete in their current divisions. Most have trouble fielding teams even after moving down a division.

An overhaul of the system must become priority No. 1. Each district must take a long, deep look at each school and determine where they are best fitted to field competitive programs.

If it is in a lower division, so be it. There is no shame and schools will see a bump in participation and school pride (see Fallon and Elko).

Of course, the problem is population booms in Reno and Las Vegas demanded more schools. Nevertheless, a school with more than 2,000 students does not equal success in athletics.

Take my alma mater, Chaparral, in Las Vegas. It has double the students than Fallon but could only reach the postseason in a few sports and compete for regional and state titles in only one (track).

The football program was shredded and routinely allowed 50 or more points per game.

But as the Cowboys have realigned to the DI-A, their athletic department is starting to gain momentum and reach the postseason in numerous sports. School officials have spoken about how it has helped re-energize the school as a whole.

Sound familiar?

So, the population argument falls on deaf ears here, and not to mention a school can petition to move up once they feel a strong foundation has been laid.

Once schools are properly assigned their classifications, then the NIAA can open its doors for additional alterations.

One example is to allow specific sports from certain schools to petition to move up or down a division depending the success or lack thereof. For example, if a soccer team is dominating the DI-A, then it can apply to compete in the DI.

The freedom to allow specific programs to move outside their school’s designation will create better competition, which is the end goal. Plus, it’s not as if every school has a eight or nine dominant sports that would play up, only a very few, which makes for implementation much easier.

Others have called for realignment sport by sport, but that is a logistical nightmare. Scheduling, for one, would be even more of a trainwreck in certain sports than it already is.

One thing is certain, the NIAA must become proactive and realize that sending an entire school down will not solve the bigger issues at hand.

Reclassify all schools, then allow those competitive programs to petition to compete at a level they are best situated.

Steve Puterski is the sports editor for the Lahontan Valley News and can be contacted at sputerski@lahontanvalleynews.com.


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