RIDING THE PINE: NIAA must hit home run with next hire | NevadaAppeal.com

RIDING THE PINE: NIAA must hit home run with next hire

Steve Puterski

It’s time for a home-run hire.

It’s time for someone to come in and take control of prep sports in Nevada.

It’s time for the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association to reach far and wide to find a candidate who can level the playing field and find common ground between the wide gaps in the Silver State.

On Monday, the NIAA announced Eddie Bonine, its executive director, is leaving to take the same position in Louisiana.

Some will see it as good riddance, others are sad to see Bonine leave. Either way, the NIAA must swing for the fences with its next selection.

As Bonine leaves the state, the NIAA would be wise to look at an out-of-state candidate as well.

Why?

No political ties or allegiances to a specific region would be beneficial to candidate who will be swamped with lobbyists from every side. He or she would come in with no agenda other than to find the best options for all, not for a region or one city.

As for the issues, realignment is once again on the horizon for the 2015-16 school year and a number of options are floating around. While the new executive director may not have total control over the process, this person can lend guidance to a sticky situation.

Some of the options are to a create one, 10-team super league in Las Vegas as the state’s top classification followed by a division consisting of the Reno/Carson City/Gardnerville schools, the leftover large schools in Las Vegas plus several current Division I-A teams.

The other division would or could stay the same.

Nevertheless, the incoming candidate must also address the trainwreck that is reporting scores. The NIAA has let too many schools slide on reporting results, which was part of the organization’s agreement with Maxpreps.com last year.

Most schools do follow the procedure laid out by the NIAA, but there are plenty who do not. The NIAA said it would affect postseason qualification. So far, it has not.

Yet, another and perhaps more pressing issue for the incoming candidate is funding. The NIAA currently has several sponsors, but every postseason the schools must give up ticket sales to the state organization.

The new candidate must possess a silver tongue to convince local and statewide business to contribute to prep sports in an effort to reduce the financial burden on the schools.

Gone are the days of the University of Nevada, Reno and UNLV hosting (for the most part) state championship events. The cost commanded by those institutions drove away the experience of playing in a great venue for second-tier avenues for many athletes who will never step on the field in college.

In other words, the NIAA must sell out. Securing title sponsors for every sports is a tall task, but there is enough money in the state to do so. Even local clubs and/or groups may be willing to pitch in for niche sports such as cross country and tennis.

Hell, there is a man in Las Vegas who started his own school, is one of the all-time great tennis players and, oh by the way, married to arguably the greatest women’s tennis player in the history of the planet.

For those not in the know, it’s Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf. They may be able to throw a few bucks the NIAA’s way. At least it’s a start.

Even if the big-time athletes shy away, hit casino moguls, big businesses and those mom-and-pop stores with longstanding success in their communities to help offset the cost.

But perhaps the biggest obstacle for the new executive director lies with Bishop Gorman, the Las Vegas powerhouse.

Gorman is an athletic monster and political heavyweight. The NIAA has been unsuccessful with previous attempts to knock down the school a peg.

Anyone who caught Saturday’s DI state title 70-28 thrashing over Reed saw yet another example of Gorman’s vast power in its chase for the mythical national championship.

The school wants to be and has become a national name. Everyone outside Gorman has been screaming for their departure as a NIAA-member school, or at least in football and basketball.

Taking on Gorman, and its billionaire backers, is no easy task for the NIAA. In fact, it may just be impossible.

But the next executive director must find a solution to keep all parties in agreement.

It’s no easy task, but the NIAA must find a person capable of such fight, determination and sense of fairness to lead in a new era.

It’s time.

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