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Commentary: NIAA makes the right call to pressure Gorman
by Dan Eckles - Commentary
Feb 29, 2012 | 1264 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When a team starts to win exponentially more than its competitors, you have to start asking why. In the Silver State, Bishop Gorman, the private Catholic high school in Las Vegas, is that school. It’s been racking up Nevada large school state titles like a little kid hoarding candy.

Bishop Gorman has not only been winning state titles, it’s been battering the state’s top teams in the title tilts as evidenced by the Gael’s 72-28 win over Reed in the football final and 96-51 blitzing of Hug in last week’s basketball championship.

The Clark County power’s dominance over the last five-plus years has led prep athletic officials to look for answers on how to reach more competitive balance.

The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association, the state’s governing body for high school athletics, believes it knows the answer and it’s trying to do something about it. The NIAA has asked Gorman to consider becoming an Associate Member, meaning it would not be able to compete for state championships.

I commend the NIAA for getting the ball rolling in the hopes of finding a solution to ending Gorman’s dominance. NIAA leaders have been looking for ways to level the playing field and bring Gorman back to the pack for a few years, but it seems as though the organization is now getting more bark in its bite.

In a letter to Bishop Gorman’s President John Kilduff, NIAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine said, “If BGHS is not willing to consider this membership proposal or does not have an acceptable alternative, it appears the separation of private and public schools in the postseason may become the only method to resolve these issues and/or concerns.”

Other states do host separate private and public school state championship events. That is the last thing Bishop Gorman wants because Nevada has only three private 4A, or large schools, in the whole state. There’s not much pride in calling yourself state champion if you’re the best of three.

Bishop Gorman wins because its has competitive advantages over nearly all other schools in the state. Firstly, as a private school it can recruit student-athletes. It has to recruit as it has no physical boundaries to draw from like public schools. It is the preeminent private school in the state’s largest metropolis. It has a recruiting pool of 1.9 million people.

Conversely, the private Catholic school in Reno, Bishop Manogue, has a metro area of just 400,000 to draw from.

Additionally, Bishop Gorman has an immaculate beautiful campus with unmatched athletic facilities. It also can offer scholarships. It gave out more than $1 million dollars for the 2010-11 school year. I’d be curious what percentage of that went to athletes and what percentage went to students who did not play a sport.

Those are all huge competitive advantages, especially when you’re talking about a scholarship that could equal more than $12,000 a year.

Public schools can’t compete with that. The Clark County school district is starting an open enrollment policy where Las Vegas high-school age students can choose which school they go to and not be forced to go to their zoned school.

Still, that doesn’t exactly give public schools a recruiting tool. What can a high school coach say to a prospective student athlete? “Come to our school. We’ve got a great vocational program for potential mechanics. What can a Gorman coach say? “Come to our state of the art campus, play on the best athletic facilities in a nationally recognized program. Oh yeah, and we’ll also pick up the tab, waiving that $12,000 yearly fee for the next four years.”

Which pitch do you think will appeal more to a high school kid and his or her parents?

Kilduff did respond to Bonine’s letter asking the Gaels’ athletic programs to consider associate membership status. He pretty much said “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Kilduff cited Clark County’s open enrollment and a new realignment policy as tools that will bring more competitive balance. But he can’t believe that any more than he believes Las Vegas will have a horribly snowy March. If he does, he’s doing a good ostrich imitation, burying his head deep in the southern Nevada sand.

The realignment rubric is set up to help struggling programs compete, by moving them to a lower classification after multiple years of poor performance. It won’t help good public schools close the gap on Gorman. Also, Kilduff cited the open enrollment change as a way to help competitive balance. But again, if you’ve already got the best package to pitch, student athletes are going to choose your package.

Bishop Gorman has won four of the last five state football championships, three of the last four state basketball titles and six straight baseball titles. Don’t be fooled. Kilduff doesn’t even want more competitive balance. He doesn’t want other schools to start beating Gorman so it looks like the prep athletic landscape is more even. He’s not hoping the Gaels’ programs lose more.

When you’re on top, you don’t want competitive balance. You want to stay on top.

I hope the NIAA can get the Gorman administration to see Associate Membership is the best thing for it. If not, the NIAA should implement a private school state championship and ultimately steal the Gaels’ thunder. It’s time somebody did.

Dan Eckles is the Sparks Tribune’s sports editor. He can be reached via email at deckles@dailysparkstribune.com
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