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Playoff sites determined if spring season resumes

Thomas Ranson

Although the current high school spring sports season is suspended because of COVID-19, the NIAA has determined playoff sites if sports can continue next month. 

With Gov. Steve Sisolak’s shutdown for all K-12 schools until April 30, the NIAA said that only pool play (to determine seeding) and a regional tournament will be available if the shutdown is lifted. Because neighboring California schools will not be returning to campus, there will be no state tournament. 

If the shutdown continues and schools don’t resume on campus by May 4, though, the season will be canceled. But the NIAA is optimistic and planning if the season were to continue. 

“We’re following the lead of our governor. It’s a ladder effect and knowing our governor has said only through April 30, we don’t see a reason why we need to call it quits,” NIAA Assistant Director Donnie Nelson said. “We like the idea of having hope. It’s always good to have hope. We’re also realistic.”

Nelson said that region championships would conclude no later than May 16, the original date of the state tournament. The goal is to use May 7-8 as pool play or a mini-round robin, while trying to minimize the loss of school time. 

Nelson said some of the tournaments could be playing in the afternoons and evenings, especially in the 4A, but with the rest of the classes (1A-3A) being more spread out, it poses a challenge with travel, which would lead to geographically based competition before the regional tournament. The biggest challenge, though, is golf because the tournament can take around six hours to complete during two weekdays.

“A real big factor in how we’re playing sport by sport is to minimize loss of school time for student-athletes. We certainly promote that our competitors are students first and then athletes,” Nelson added. 

Having a hard date of April 30 helped the NIAA plan in case the suspension is lifted. 

“That helped us focus,” said Nelson, who said several high school state associations in the region have already cancelled, including California. “When we knew we were out for sure, until April 30, that allowed us to really focus on implementing something for two weeks. We’re still holding on.”

But all of this could get scrapped with the next update from the governor’s office. 

“From our perspective, if we get a lift of the ban from the governor and the superintendents as an association, our anticipation is we can go forward,” Nelson said. “Our understanding is the superintendents are working in concert with each other.”

Nelson said if faculty and students are not physically back in the buildings, then the spring sports season will be cancelled. If that happens, the NIAA will turn its focus to the summer and fall season. Nelson said there have been no discussions on COVID-19’s potential impact on fall sports. 

“A lot of state associations are communicating. The fall season is not anywhere in our vernacular at this point. It probably will be in the summertime,” he said. “There’s no hidden insights or no secrets, which means it is as planned. We have a calendar approved and fall dates approved.”

The NIAA is also aware of an ongoing petition to extend the spring sports season into June. But Nelson was quick to point out that it will not happen because the association must be fair because of the school year ending in May or June affecting the logistics over transportation, facilities, coaches and event staff. 

“We have to be fair with everyone across the state,” he said. “Some schools are before Memorial Day, and some are out on June 12. You can’t do anything during that timeframe.”

NIAA HALL OF FAME AND TOP-10 BANQUET UPDATE

Off the field, two events have already been impacted by COVID-19. 

The NIAA Hall of Fame banquet was moved from April to Sept. 21 and the NIAA Top Ten Student-Athletes dinners in Reno and Las Vegas scheduled for this month have been cancelled. Nelson said the NIAA received a record number of applications for the awards program and they will still award the top 10 student-athletes in both regions. Each recipient receives a $1,000 scholarship check. 

“The committee wants to meet in person. We don’t feel an immediacy to do it (now) and we can’t put ourselves in position to meet in person,” Nelson said. “Hopefully, we’ll be back in May and if not, then we may hold off until the school year ends. There’s no timeframe affecting it. It’s a very prideful program. We’re very proud to have this program and recognize these amazing student-athletes.”

SPRING SPORTS REGIONAL PLAN

For baseball and softball regional tournaments, the 4A will be played at host sites for the opening round followed by finishing at Reno and Manogue for baseball and Carson for softball. In the 3A, South Tahoe was originally scheduled to host both baseball and softball but Dayton will now host. West Wendover will host the 2A regional tournaments and the 1A will be played in Carlin. 

For track, Reed High School is scheduled to host the Northern 4A meet while North Valleys will host the 1A, 2A and 3A meet. Swimming for all classes will be in Carson City. For golf, the 4A will be at Somersett Country Club and the 1A and 2A meet will be in Wells. Nelson said the 3A’s location hasn’t been determined.