Options plentiful for NIAA realignment
The word that everyone loves to hate will be a hot-button topic the next 12 months for high schools in Nevada — realignment.
Dave Wilson, the former principal at Chaparral High School, and the chair of the Southern Nevada Reclassification and Alignment Committee was in Winnemucca on earlier this month to speak to the Division I-A North athletic directors.
The talks were informal with a number of questions and answers from both sides. Wilson has been asked by NIAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine to chair the state in the next realignment process.
“You (athletic directors) know a heck of a lot more about athletics than I do,” Wilson said. “I don’t have a dog in the fight. I care about the kids and want them to be successful. There were some good things that came out of the realignment in the south, but there are also concerns I need to hear about.”
A committee will be formed in the near future to discuss realignment for the 2016-17 school year. A number of possibilities have been brought to the forefront.
One possibility is sport by sport realignment in different leagues. For instance, Lowry could play volleyball or girls and boys basketball in Division I, while its other sports could compete in the Division I-A or even Division III.
That was met with very little support of the athletic directors in the room.
“Financially that is just not an option for us,” said Lowry principal Ray Parks. “We could not get the transportation to do it and it would not be cost effective for anybody.”
Three schools in southern Nevada were at the crux of the conversation and those included Faith Lutheran, Clark and Desert Pines. Faith Lutheran is a private school in Las Vegas and won six state championships in the Division I-A a season ago.
“It seems like Clark County runs things and are the big dogs,” said Fernley athletic director Jeff Knuston. “The more of those teams that you put into our league, what does that do to us? Our league runs pretty good. It concerns me that they will want a majority of the playoff teams. You start opening opportunities for them, you limit them for us.”
Faith Lutheran just built a multi-million dollar facility that included a new gym and state of the art weight room. With the current realignment, Faith Lutheran was given the status of refusal to move to Division I because of its enrollment.
“We have a problem with Faith,” Wilson said. “Faith wants to be the next Gorman. I strongly suggested to Bret (Walter, Faith Lutheran athletic administrator) that Faith withdraw from the I-A and he was upset with me. We left protections for the old 3A schools and that really came back to bite us. We screwed that up. It will be our determination that they go up to the next level. We have to get rid of protections for everyone.”
Clark and Desert Pines are defined as magnet schools in Las Vegas, which basically means open enrollment for them if a student qualifies.
“If you qualify for any of those magnets you are eligible to be at Clark or Desert Pines,” Wilson said. “You have an AAU coach at Clark that is taking advantage of that and has built a program or dynasty at Clark in boys basketball. The rest of their programs are middle of the pack. Desert Pines does the same thing. As the former principal at Chaparral, my best athletes were stolen from me. That is a concern for me. My concern is not size of school, the concern is the schools using the magnet programs for the recruiting of athletes.”
Another idea that has been floated around is splitting up the Division I and I-A schools to create a third league (Division II). If that occurred, there would be the possibility of a super league in Las Vegas that would consist of eight to 10 of the top schools in the area.
Those schools would play for a city championship instead of a state championship like other schools. A number of large cities throughout the United States does that.
“If you look at the state championships that are being won in Division I, it’s by those schools in Las Vegas,” Wilson said. “You have an occasional title in girls golf, girls basketball and volleyball. Everything else from cross country to tennis is being won by a select top tier of schools from southern Nevada.”
The next division would include the current Division I schools in northern Nevada (Reno, Galena, Carson, Reed, etc.) and the next tier of Division I schools in the Las Vegas area. However, in that move the likes of Desert Pines, Clark, Sierra Vista and Faith Lutheran would be bumped up to that league.
A third league (Division II) would go back to the old 3A and have those teams play. The Division I-A North would be the same, except with the talks of perhaps adding a Hug or Wooster. The athletic directors were still not in favor of letting North Valleys, with over 2,200 students, drop down.
“We like our league in the north,” said Lowry boys basketball coach Chad Peters. “It has a rural feel to it with Elko, Spring Creek, Lowry, Fallon and our other schools. When we go to Sparks it has the rural feeling. I don’t get that feeling when I go to North Valleys.”
The Division II South would have the same feeling with Moapa Valley, Boulder City, Virgin Valley and Pahrump coming on board. The remainder of the league would consist of the lowest scoring schools currently being used in the rubric system. Those schools may include Western, Chaparral, Sunrise Mountain or Spring Valley.
“You would have built-in schools that are not as competitive,” Wilson said. “In my world, I am looking at a Western or Sunrise Mountain that is not winning anything. They are not magnet schools. You don’t see them in the playoffs. My number one thing about realignment is balance. I want to give every kid the ability to compete for a state championship.”
Wilson added that the concern is what the schools in northern Nevada want and how the schools want to see the future play out.
“I don’t understand northern athletics and you guys do and you are much smarter on this subject than me,” Wilson said. “I look at Wooster and see some weaker programs, but a baseball coach that wants to play for the playoffs every year. But one program for me doesn’t make sense.”
The plans are to start the realignment talk as quickly as possible and have it set by sometime next fall for the 2016-17 season to get schedules done by individual schools.