NIAA aims to cut out Gorman

Bishop Gorman always has been a polarizing presence on the high school sports scene.

Their fans and alumni love the Gaels, while many opponents hate having to compete with a private school that they perceive has competitive advantages.

If the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association has its way, the haters won’t have to worry about Gorman anymore.

The NIAA’s board of control will discuss having separate public and private school state championships during the second day of its meeting on Tuesday.

But the NIAA would like to go a step further, separating Gorman entirely from postseason tournaments.

In a letter dated Feb. 20, NIAA executive director Eddie Bonine requested that Gorman become an associate member of the NIAA. That status would allow the Gaels to compete against Nevada teams, but the school would be unable to compete for league, region and state titles.

“The reason for this request is based on the continuing dissatisfaction and discontent over the past three to five years that exists within the 4A classification in football, boys’ and girls’ basketball, and baseball,” the letter reads. “This unrest is now to the point that all 4A classification public schools throughout the state of Nevada believe they are playing for second and third place, regardless of the strength of their team, their accomplishments, or achievements during the season.”

Bonine declined to discuss the issue prior to Tuesday’s meeting, and Gorman president John Kilduff did not return a call seeking comment. But correspondence between the two clearly shows a difference of opinion.

“Given the documented record of domination by BGHS, our public school members of the NIAA have reached a point where they are seriously discussing simply scheduling BGHS, and then forfeiting those scheduled games, contests or meets in order to protest the inherent advantage BGHS has in their abilities to attract student-athletes from throughout Southern Nevada and to attract private funding for coaching staffs, equipment and facilities — things which far exceed the reach of our public schools,” Bonine stated in his letter to Kilduff.

Gorman always has had strong sports programs but has become dominant in recent years in some sports, gaining lofty national rankings and racking up state titles.

The baseball team, which never had won a state title before, has captured the past six Class 4A crowns. The football team has won three straight titles and four of the past five. The 2007 football championship was the school’s first since 1983.

In basketball, the boys have won three of the past four titles, and the girls have four crowns since 2006.

“Your proven success in mainstream athletic activities has vaulted Bishop Gorman from a local and state power, to its present national power,” Bonine wrote.

He suggested that the NIAA and Clark County School District would work with Gorman to fill out an independent schedule should the Gaels accept associate membership and “still allow BGHS to keep open dates to schedule national opponents.”

Kilduff, however, sounded less than excited about this option when he responded to Bonine in a letter dated Feb. 27.

“Our student-athletes are no different than other high school students who strive, in all sanctioned sports, for an opportunity to compete for a State championship. This classification, as we understand it, would prohibit such participation,” Kilduff wrote.

Bonine suggested in his letter that if Gorman won’t accept the associate membership, the NIAA would be forced to separate private and public schools in the postseason, writing that it “may become the only method to resolve these issues and/or concerns.”

In his response, Kilduff said Gorman plans to continue competing as a full NIAA member.

No action on the public-private separation can be taken Tuesday, but it could be added as an action item at an upcoming meeting.

Because of the small number of private schools in the state, especially larger private schools, Kilduff wrote that the proposal is not feasible. Sixteen private schools are in the NIAA, but only Gorman, Faith Lutheran and Bishop Manogue in Reno currently compete at the Class 4A level, which is for the state’s largest schools. The rest either are 1A or 2A schools.

“There are too few private schools located in the state of Nevada,” Kilduff wrote. “The NIAA is charged with providing a competitive balance for its member schools of which Bishop Gorman has been a member since the school was established over 50 years ago. As a member school, we have observed all of the NIAA’s rules and regulations, and supported the Association’s initiatives over the decades. The NIAA has a duty to represent all member schools, not only the public schools, but the private schools as well.”

And Kilduff had a not-too-veiled threat of litigation in the final paragraph of his letter.

“In the event any action is taken by the NIAA to change Bishop Gorman’s membership status or create a public/private school distinction, Bishop Gorman will explore all appropriate action,” he wrote.

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