The NIAA, which governs high school athletics in Nevada, is considering the idea of forming separate state championship events for public and private schools. Hug could certainly stake claim to being the best public school in the state, although teams like Palo Verde, Clark and Centennial — schools in the same Sunset Region as Bishop Gorman, might disagree.
Ultimately, those Hug players may still get a chance to call themselves state champions and it wouldn’t be just a claim they made up amongst themselves. That’s a ways away, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.
That’s because multiple reports have surfaced this week about the NCAA looking into the amateur status of Bishop Gorman basketball standout Shabazz Muhammad, a senior forward many publications rank as the top prospect in the country.
If the NCAA does indeed rule Muhammad broke NCAA recruiting rules and either deems him ineligible or suspends him for a number of games to begin his freshman season next winter, the NIAA could look into the matter and potentially strip Bishop Gorman of its state title for using an ineligible player.
NIAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine is already looking into the matter.
The NCAA has contacted universities recruiting Muhammad and warned them of their investigation of the southern Nevada prep star. The NCAA is investigating his dealings with a pair financial advisers and their funding of his unofficial visits to college campuses.
NIAA bylaws say a ‘pupil is not an amateur in a sanctioned sport if he or she: receives any award, equipment or prize that has a retail value of more than $200.” Surely cross-country flights and trips that make up unofficial visits would be more expensive than $200, but it is unclear if the NIAA would apply this bylaw.
The NIAA would have a wide range of punishments at its disposal, but the organization’s handbook says its director may impose any appropriate penalty.
Given the NIAA’s request of Gorman to consider becoming an Associate Member, which would in turn prohibit the Gaels from competing for state championships, it’s a bad time for BGHS to be hit with negative publicity.
The Gaels need to look squeaky clean right about now. Using an illegal player to win a state championship, let alone the top recruit in the nation and the state’s most heralded recruit ever, does not help the Las Vegas private Catholic school’s cause.
Bishop Gorman’s credibility certainly takes a hit with this negative publicity, especially because one of the two financial advisers putting Muhammad under scrutiny is the brother of a BGHS boys basketball assistant coach.
Muhammad’s father insists his son has not broken any rules. Maybe he has, maybe he hasn’t. I won’t pretend to know the truth, but this instance does make you wonder what else has gone on, or is going on, at Gorman.
There have been rumors for years about sketchy ongoings at Gorman, like talented athletes who were on free-lunch programs at a public school but then turned up at Gorman, like they suddenly came into the cash to afford a $12,000 yearly tuition.
Bishop Gorman brought up an all-star football team to northern Nevada in December when it demolished Reed in the 4A state final. It would not be far fetched for Reed football coach Ernie Howren to ask, if all those Gaels players have been following NCAA and NIAA recruiting rules.
If not, maybe Reed deserves a state championship trophy.
Every coach that’s suited their team up against Gorman over the past decade has the right to at least ask that question.
I believe Gorman has outgrown the NIAA. Let the Gaels play independent athletic schedules. Let them compete for national championships and try to get that USA Today exposure.
One thing is for sure. Bishop Gorman does not need the NCAA looking into its athletes collegiate eligibility or drumming up bad press in a time when it needs to convince the NIAA it can be a viable member and not embarrass or mock the rest of the state’s schools.
Dan Eckles is the Sparks Tribune’s sports editor. He can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org