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NIAA passes on vote to allow Bishop Gorman to play in football bowl game

In the end, all the talk about Bishop Gorman’s football team playing a big-time opponent after potentially winning a state championship was just that: talk.

After 52 minutes of discussion Wednesday, the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association’s Board of Control let a proposal from Paragon Marketing Group to allow a Nevada team to play in a state championship bowl game simply die due to lack of a motion.

The board never voted on it, and as a result, Nevada teams will continue to not be permitted to participate in games or practices after the conclusion of the state championship game.

Gorman, which was also a possible site for as many as three games Paragon would put on, was the only Nevada football team under consideration by the group.

“We at Bishop Gorman High School, including myself, respect the board’s decision,” Gorman coach Kenny Sanchez said. “Our first goal is always to win a state championship. It was a far-fetched idea, and a lot needed to happen. I’m not disappointed.”

There was no guarantee Gorman, ranked No. 1 nationally by USA Today, would be selected to play. The Gaels still would have to win five more games to win the Division I state title, but has won the past six large-school crowns.

“As a competitor, you’ll take on all comers,” Sanchez said. “As a coach, I would have liked to have played in it, but I never got my hopes up. It was so far down the road. We didn’t talk about it at all.

“The state championship is what we are shooting for because it is the only thing we can control.”

The board tabled a decision on Paragon in its regular quarterly meeting in September, forcing the special meeting held by teleconference Wednesday. The discussion about Paragon dominated the 90-minute meeting.

Under its rules in the Nevada Administrative Code, the board could have allowed teams to participate in Paragon’s event, and the NIAA would have received compensation for it.

Paragon, which still does not have a title sponsor for the game, offered state associations $10,000 for allowing its teams to be considered for its football showcase, tentatively scheduled for Dec. 18 and 19 and slated to air on ESPN. A state would receive an additional $30,000 if it had a team selected to play. Paragon said it would only consider state champions and would cover teams’ expenses, plus give teams either $12,500 in cash or $25,000 in athletic apparel.

Paragon has agreements with five states, but it would not offer the NIAA a contract to review, which raised one red flag among board members.

“I need to see this in a contract before I would vote on it,” said Carolyn Edwards, board member and Clark County School District trustee.

It was far from the only concern.

“Our state championship (game) is the pinnacle,” said Brian Rothe, the Washoe County athletic director. “I have concerns about taking another step and perhaps even watering down our own state championship.”

CCSD executive athletic director Ray Mathis also was concerned that allowing a school to compete in a high-profile event could open up other problems.

“You open yourself up for athletes from other states to come into our schools and take the places of Nevada kids,” Mathis said. “We’ve already had some of that. We don’t want students moving here just to play athletics. When you go to the national level, you open that door.”

Several board members said they wanted schools to either play for a state championship or attempt to compete on a national level in postseason events, but not do both.

Such is the case with Findlay Prep’s boys basketball team, which was not affected by the board’s lack of approval.

The Pilots are preparatory members of the NIAA. The category of membership was created several years ago to allow Findlay Prep to play teams from across the nation and play in national postseason tournaments, but not compete for a state title.

Findlay Prep has played in the Dick’s High School National Tournament, formerly the National High School Invitational, in each of the past eight years. The tournament is held more than a month after the NIAA basketball season ends.

Under its membership agreement with the NIAA, Findlay Prep is not allowed to recruit Nevada residents to play on its team and can only play five games against NIAA member schools.

“We have come up with the language or the membership,” Mathis said. “Schools can simply apply for limited (or preparatory) membership.”

Paragon still plans to go on with the football games, spokesman Rashid Ghazi said.

“We respect their decision,” Ghazi said. “We’re still debating where to have the games, and we hope to make a decision on that soon. Our hope is that we can continue to have discussion (with Nevada).”

Contact reporter Bartt Davis at bdavis@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5230.

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