Realignment may change classifications, rivalries

Before some of today’s high school athletes’ parents were even born, Basic, Clark and Western competed for state titles in the highest-
enrollment division.

The schools might not be the powerhouses they once were, but they’ve always been in what some consider the most prestigious of the Nevada Inter-
scholastic Activities Association’s classes, always competing against the biggest-name schools in the state.

But that might not be the case in the immediate future.

The NIAA on Monday released a proposed realignment plan as the association looks for ways to cut more than 10 percent from its budget. The plan would reduce the current four-class format to three divisions and would knock 12 current and two planned Class 4A members into the middle of the three divisions. The proposal could be put into place for next school year.

Football would be slightly different with the lowest-
enrollment division being split into 11-man and 8-man football, based on enrollment figures.

“I’m not shocked, and to be quite honest the debate rages in our school,” said Clark athletic director Chris Lounsbury. “There are mixed feelings about it. There’s a stereotype out there that the best in Class 4A is the best in the state. I don’t know that that’s always true.”

The proposal was presented last week to the state’s superintendents. The NIAA is asking schools for feedback and will forward it to the superintendents and its own Board of Control at a meeting June 16-17, at which time the proposal could be approved and take effect for next school year, delayed until 2010-11 or scrapped altogether.

“It has to be a top-down thing,” said Faith Lutheran athletic director Bret Walter, a member of the Board of Control. “It has to come from the superintendents or it’s never going to fly.”

The NIAA also has proposed a reduction in game limits and in-season tournaments for most sports.

“We’re ready to move on it right away,” said NIAA executive director Eddie Bonine. “If there’s an overwhelming concern that we don’t want to do this now, then we can delay or look in another direction.”

The NIAA’s current classes are based on school enrollment figures. The largest schools are in Class 4A, the smallest in Class 1A.

Under the proposal, Arbor View, Basic, Canyon Springs, Clark, Chaparral, Del Sol, Desert Oasis, Legacy, Mojave, Pahrump Valley,
Tech and Western would move to Division II, along with Faith Lutheran and Sunrise Mountain, which were expected to be in Class 4A next year.

“All we wanted always was a good league to play in,” Walter said. “We’ll be open to what’s best for the state.”

Current Class 3A members Boulder City, Moapa Valley and Virgin Valley would round out the 17 Southern Nevada    schools, which would be split into two regions.

Division I would be comprised of 20 schools from Southern Nevada, also split into two regions, and 10 from Northern Nevada. An additional 13 Northern Nevada schools would play in Division II.

Bonine said his staff looked at the success some of the larger schools have had, especially over the course of the last two realignment cycles, in determining which 4A members would move to Division II.
“It’s not a perfect system,” Bonine said. “My job is to look out for all member schools. There will obviously be some fallout.”

All 12 of the southern schools that would make the move from Class 4A to Division II have had success in at least one sport this season. Several, including Mojave, Western, Clark and Chaparral, have won a state title in the last decade.
“Every school has sports that they are good in. That’s what makes it tough,” Walter said. “It has to be give and take.”

In other sports, though, the same schools struggle to be competitive and would stand a greater chance of advancing to and through the postseason with the move.

“The potential of getting to a state championship game is a boost to your morale,” Lounsbury said. “The essence of athletic competition is to feel successful. Part of that success comes from winning games.”

Rivalries could also be affected.

Clark and Bonanza, separated by a few miles and a small handful of students, would no longer be league rivals. The same holds true for Basic and Green Valley, which would be in different divisions and might not be able to play their annual Henderson Bowl football game.

“That game is extremely important to our kids and our fans. We’d have to figure out a way to still play it, and the game against Foothill, which is basically across the street,” said Basic football coach Jeff Cahill, a graduate of the school. “There is a need for realignment, but it would matter to our kids if they’re not playing in the top division. They’d be disappointed.”

The impetus behind the realignment is saving money, especially among the smaller, more rural schools. Those schools often travel hundreds of miles for league games and have trouble scheduling nearby nonleague games.

Athletes miss class time and coaches, generally teachers at the school, also miss class, forcing the school district to pay extra money to hire a substitute.

“When we go to Tonopah or Round Mountain, they’re pretty much gone all day,” said Indian Springs athletic director Jamie Molloy. “You throw in substitute teachers and it gets expensive. One day we had six teachers out of school on trips.”

The proposal should benefit Boulder City, Moapa Valley and Virgin Valley, which were expected to comprise a three-team Class 3A league next season, and should help out even smaller schools by limiting lengthy road trips.

At the same time, those schools, accustomed to competing for state titles yearly in every sport, might find their road to the postseason a bit bumpier.

“Year in and year out, I think it’s going to wear on us,” said Boulder City athletic director Regina Quintero. “There’ll be some years where we can compete and others where we’ll be in a rebuilding cycle and may have trouble competing.”The largest Division would be Division III, which would include 46 member schools and would combine the current 1A and 2A classes and separate them into three regions.

Current 2A Southern League members White Pine and West Wendover would no longer be in the same league as Las Vegas-based schools Agassi Prep, Calvary Chapel and Mountain View.

However, it could create problems for the smallest of schools in the current Class 1A, which would be asked to compete with current 2A powerhouse Needles (Calif.).

“We want to play the best,” said Henderson International athletic director Mike Ostrowski. “I’m excited about this proposal. Our travel significantly decreases. Our three longest trips would be taken away. It’s less time out of class.”

Bonine said the NIAA hasn’t yet determined if it would split Division III for the postseason in sports other than football.
“We needed to clear this hurdle first,” Bonine said. “If the playoff piece is going to be integral, we’ll sit down and put pencil to paper.”