Inaugural prep Senior Bowl to proceed without NIAA sanction

An organizer of an upcoming high school football all-star game said Tuesday the event will proceed despite not being approved by the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association, the NCAA or the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Wade White Jr., president and CEO of Big Time Sports 24/7, said “things will go as planned” for the East vs. West Senior Bowl, featuring players from the Las Vegas area, at 1 p.m. on Dec. 17 at Sam Boyd Stadium.

A memo forwarded by the NIAA to the Review-Journal late Monday said that athletes who participate in a nonapproved event would be ineligible for one activity season and/or 90 consecutive school days.

That means those who play in the game would be ineligible for basketball or wrestling this season or potentially track and field in the spring.

“Our regulations are specific if it conflicts with another sport,” NIAA executive director Eddie Bonine said Tuesday. “The football player has to make a choice to participate or not go out for basketball or wrestle.”

The first-year Senior Bowl is not affiliated with the West Charleston Lions Club Charity All-Star Game, which in June will be played for the 41st time.

Bonine said the NIAA was contacted about a possible December senior bowl two years ago, and he discussed with organizers the proper channels of getting the event approved. No game was held.

Bonine said the NIAA didn’t learn of this year’s event until Nov. 26, when fliers advertising the game had been distributed in the Rancho High parking lot before a Class 4A state semifinal game.

“I’m not wearing the black hat on this one. There are huge liability concerns,” Bonine said of the game.

White, however, said plans to hold the game haven’t wavered. He said 96 players were set to play as of Tuesday afternoon, with nominations for players coming from high school coaches.

“The kids are not in any violation because they don’t play sports other than football,” he said.

The event is being promoted as a recruiting showcase because it falls shortly before the recruiting dead period, which begins Dec. 19. Because signing day is Feb. 1, White pointed out that a game in June does little to help seniors receive football scholarships.

“We maximize every opportunity for our kids to go to college. That’s what it’s all about,” White said.

Coaches include former NFL receiver Az-Zahir Hakim, cornerback Brian Kelly, defensive tackle Hollis Thomas and former UNLV quarterback Jon Denton.

White said the event is designed to showcase players who are solid students. No players with commitments to colleges will play, and a core grade-point average of at least 2.0 is mandatory, he said.

A general admission ticket on costs $8, and youth 12 and under are free.

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