Nevada’s high school sports is my primary work environment so I’m around the conversation with high frequency. I’ve talked to people in northern Nevada and southern Nevada. I’ve talked to high school athletes, parents, coaches, administrators and NIAA executives about their views on the subject and I’ve watched Bishop Gorman’s success evolve exponentially over the past decade. Given all that, I think I understand the frustrations of many, where the issue sits and where it’s going.
First let me say that I don’t believe Gorman has done much, if anything wrong. It is a private school and thus has no built-in feeder system for its student body. It must go out and attract/recruit prospective students and student athletes. It has the right to do just that.
School officials are not supposed to recruit students for athletic reasons. I won’t stick my head in the sand and say that’s never happened, but I’m not sure it happens much, certainly to the egregious degree many accuse the Gaels’ athletic department of. That’s because school officials don’t need to. Current students, parents, alumni and the school’s multi-million dollar new campus, along with its proven consistent success, do that for them.
There’s no need for school officials to break the rules and recruit for athletic purposes, the school’s campus and programs speak for themselves and if it needs a little more selling, there’s always someone other than a school employee to put more positive spin on what the Gaels are about.
Inevitably, when the discussion comes up, someone always asks something like ‘can you blame them? Wouldn’t you want your child to go there?’ My answers are easy, no I don’t blame them and yes I’d love for my child to experience a superior academic and athletic setting.
Ultimately, that’s not the point. All parents love their kids and want what’s best for them. That doesn’t make a difference when determining whether Gorman should or shouldn’t play for NIAA-sponsored state championships. Those are two completely different issues.
I believe Bishop Gorman, has done relatively little, if anything wrong. I understand why the people there still want to compete for state championships. And I think it’s well past the time to start looking at the system to see if that’s best for all the student-athletes in the state.
Because Gorman is a private school it can recruit and because the school and its donors have the deepest pockets in the state’s biggest city, it has the most resources and the deepest talent pool to draw from. This why Reno’s Bishop Manogue High School doesn’t dominate the north like Gorman does the south and the entire state. Manogue doesn’t have a metropolitan area of 1.9 million people to draw commercial and personal donors and potential students from, maybe just one-sixth of that in fact.
Here are a few facts. Gorman has won five straight and six of the last seven state football championships. It has won four of the last five state boys basketball titles and seven of the last eight state baseball crowns.
So I’ll reiterate, I don’t think Gorman has exhibited a blatant disregard for NIAA policy. It’s played within the rules. Still, those numbers support the claim of many that the Gaels have an advantage over their public school rivals. Public schools cannot attract/recruit the top students and athletes to attend their classes and they do not have the donors to pursue and build facilities similar to Gorman’s.
Because Gorman and public schools are not playing by the same rules, the competitive playing field is not even. Thus, change should be sought or Gorman will continue to win roughly 85 percent of the state titles in the three major sports.
Here is where the issue gets sticky. Gorman will not willingly choose to accept an Associate Membership status, nor should it. The NIAA does not have deep enough pockets to fight Gorman in court, which is what it would take, and I’m not sure the NIAA has language in its bylaws anywhere that gives it the right to force Gorman into any secondary status.
To force change, you need to evaluate what Bishop Gorman needs. The Gaels’ athletic programs need the Clark County School District. Without Clark County schools, how would Gorman programs fill their schedules? Sure the school’s football program could probably fill 10 dates, but its basketball and baseball teams would have a hard time filling 30 dates, let alone all its girls programs and less-heralded programs like soccer, wrestling, track etc.
Given the current state of the issue, the only way I see Gorman being left out of playing for postseason championships is if the CCSD chose to pull itself from the NIAA because it planned a boycott of Gorman. Then, either the NIAA would drastically change as we know it, or Gorman would be forced to negotiate and compromise.
I’m not sure the North’s large schools have much say in the matter. They can’t do much but complain every time they are beaten in a state title matchup. North schools need the CCSD to initiate change before they can get in the bargaining mix.
That’s just one humble sports writer’s opinion. But in any scenario, you have to look at who has ‘the juice.’ In this case it’s Gorman and the CCSD, not the NIAA and not northern Nevada schools.
Dan Eckles is the Sparks Tribune’s Managing-Sports Editor. He can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.