A recent realignment plan in southern Nevada has split Clark County’s largest high schools into a Division I and Division II. Each will play for separate regional and state championships. Division I will feature southern Nevada’s top athletic schools, Bishop Gorman, Palo Verde and Green Valley among others.
That leaves Northern 4A leaders to choose which division they’d like their top schools to participate in. Early feedback shows most of the Northern 4A’s administrators and coaches want to play southern Nevada’s best (Division I) during state tournament play.
“That will eventually come down to an NIAA Board vote, but they will follow the wishes of the 4A league,” said Ken Cass, who oversees athletics for Washoe County schools. “I believe the (Northern) 4A will go Division I and give the Northern 3A the option to have its own Northern 3A state championship or compete against the D-II.”
When North-South competition becomes part of the conversation it doesn’t take long for Bishop Gorman to become a hot topic. Bishop Gorman is the lone private Catholic school in Las Vegas and its athletic programs have had unmatched success over the last half decade.
For years, state championship awards seemed to make their way back to trophy cases in northern and southern Nevada at a fairly equal rate. That’s changed in recent years but many across the Silver State don’t believe it’s a North-South issue.
“We should play the highest level against the highest level,” Cass said. “For most sports it works out well. The North has not been very competitive in football the last couple of years but that’s more of a Gorman issue than a rest-of-Clark County issue.”
Gorman beat North champ McQueen 40-0 in the last fall’s state final, but the Gaels posted lopsided wins against every in-state foe they played. Their only losses in a 13-2 season came against Arizona state champion Chandler and national power De La Salle of the East Bay Area.
The 2009 season was similar. The Gaels beat North champ Reed 62-21 in a state semifinal and then beat Del Sol by the same 62-21 margin a week later in the state final.
Bishop Gorman has won three of Nevada’s last four large-school state football championships.
Cass alluded to Gorman’s football dominance but the Gaels dominate more than football. Bishop Gorman has won six straight baseball state titles and five of the last 12 boys basketball titles. No other school has won more than one in that span. Additionally, the Gaels’ girls hoops program has won four of the last six state titles.
Those numbers lead prep sports fans in northern Nevada to say North schools can compete fine with southern Nevada schools, but few can compete consistently with Gorman, specifically in the high-profile sports.
NIAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine says his office is aware of those numbers and is studying options to try and keep a level playing field. He cited a rubric study that gave southern Nevada schools points for their prep sports success during the last two years. Bonine said Gorman had accrued more than 400 points while no other school had more than 200 points.
“When there’s a 200-point discrepancy and no other school even has 200 points, we’re going to address it and see how it plays out,” Bonine said.
Currently, the NIAA has a system in place that forces student-athletes, who variance into a school, other than their zoned school, to play at the sub-varsity level for one year before they are allowed to play a varsity sport. However, that policy does not apply to athletes who start their high school careers at a private school.
Bonine said the NIAA is examining a rule that would force incoming freshman at the state’s private schools to play at the sub-varsity level for a year if they did not go to private middle school. Conversely, the rule would apply to student-athletes who attend private middle school but opt to go to a public high school.
Bonine said he initially wanted to the implement that rule with a two-year ban on varsity sport participation. He felt that would have been a stronger deterrent to recruiting and a kept more of the top athletes choosing to stay at their zoned school. That stiffer policy was scrapped because Bonine said it met with too much opposition.
The NIAA’s Board of Control could vote on a rule change in the next year which would likely go into effect immediately.