The Northern 4A football format had for years mirrored other sports, playing in an alignment with two leagues, the High Desert League and the Sierra League. Two years ago, when four football playing members dropped out of the 4A ranks, the remaining members opted for an 11-team, one-league format in which schools played eight league games and missed two other opponents.
That alignment came under scrutiny over the past two years, but many still had concerns about returning to a two-league format with only 11 football-playing members. The debate caused a delay in scheduling that has left the region’s football coaches in limbo as they could not schedule open dates for next year without knowing their league format and schedule.
In Monday’s meeting, the Northern 4A ADs opted to return to the two-league format. Like in other sports, Reed, Spanish Springs, McQueen, North Valleys, Hug and Reno make up the HDL while Galena, Bishop Manogue, Carson, Douglas and Damonte Ranch make up the SL. Wooster, a Northern 4A member in all other sports, competes in the 3A ranks for football.
“You hate to say it, but it’s about time,” said Ernie Howren, veteran football coach of defending Northern 4A champion and state runner-up Reed. “Schools plan their schedules a year or two in advance. We want to do that in terms of planning home and away trips. To be sitting here in the middle March and still not have our bye weeks filled, is really frustrating. To know it’s done now, and that we can can go start talking to people, is pretty nice.”
The football format was vote tight, 6-5. Manogue, Carson, Damonte, Galena, McQueen and Reed voted in favor of the two-league setup while Douglas, Hug, North Valleys, Reno and Spanish Springs voted for the one-league plan.
Despite coming out on the losing end of the vote, Spanish Springs football coach Scott Hare was fine with the decision.
“I was fine with either,” Spanish Springs football coach Scott Hare said. “But when I talked with some Sierra League coaches they had concerns about having two byes and the HDL only having one. So I talked with our administration and we opted to vote for the one-league format, thinking it might be better for the schools as a whole.
“But then look at the vote and only Douglas, from the Sierra League voted for the one-league plan. So I guess it’s not that big of a deal.”
In the re-adopted two-league format, Sparks schools, Reed and Spanish Springs, will have a master schedule that includes three non-league cross-over games against Sierra League foes, five High Desert League games, a bye week that can be filled, and the option to pick up a 10th game, benefiting the NIAA’s Hall of Fame program. The league games will be the final five games of the season.
Spanish Springs already has an agreement in place to play Bishop Manogue on the season-opening Hall-of-Fame weekend, Aug. (24). The Cougars open date is Sept. 7. Hare will now have to evaluate if he wants to fill that with a non-league opponent or keep it as a bye week.
“I’m glad the league games are at the end,” Hare said. “If you have a two-league setup, they should be at the end. With one league, you jump right into playing league games so early, you lose some evaluation time. The last two years, we missed that.”
At Reed, the Raiders are set for a road season-opener against James Logan High of Union City, Calif. on Hall-of-Fame game weekend, Aug. 24. Reed has an open date it will try to fill on Aug. 31.
“We will definitely try and fill that,” Howren said. “We will try to get that last open game with somebody here in northern Nevada but we are willing to travel and pick somebody up in Sacramento or northern California if we have to. I’m sure there will be a lot of head coaches in the next hours today and tomorrow talking to try to get that last game scheduled.”
The Northern 4A ADs also approved a boys and girls basketball schedule for next winter. Their original schedule only left one open weekend before Christmas Break for schools to schedule tournaments or non-league games. The NIAA allows schools to play in two tournaments and Northern 4A schools are allowed to pick up two extra non-leagues beyond their 16 master schedule league games. The region’s coaches wanted more flexibility.
Thus, the ADs approved a basketball schedule that leaves open two weekends before the holiday break for schools to add tournaments or non-league games.
The group approved master schedules for the 2012-13 school year for nearly all of its sports. One exception was baseball. Regional baseball coaches and administrators are, like football previously, debating on the one- or two- league format.
“Absolutely, I’m glad we got this done,” Spanish Springs athletic director Art Anderson said of the sport schedules. “I kind of thought coming in that we had a lot of questions still about winter sports scheduling, but it seemed like everyone was willing to compromise to get some things done today.”
The 2012-13 school year is the start of a two-year cycle. The plan is for master schedules to be mirrored for the 2013-14 school year. However, nine of the 12 Northern 4A schools fall under the Washoe County School District umbrella and the WCSD Board of Trustees recently voted to make drastic changes to the district calendar.
The new calendar will start the school year earlier, by two weeks. It calls for a two-week break in the fall and spring as well as a three-week winter holiday break. Those changes could force Northern 4A athletic administrators to alter schedules in 2013-14.
Anderson admitted that could be an issue in the future but he said WCSD leaders have not circulated a new calendar for the 2013-14 school year, making it hard for the ADs to plan ahead.
“We may have to re-examine some future schedules,” Anderson said. “It’s always a concern that we’re not moving fast enough to help the coaches schedule. Getting this done today was a good start. It’s not perfect. It’s not what everyone wanted, but we can make it work.”
Reed High athletic director Ron Coombs had similar sentiments.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt we’ll have to address some of those issues again,” Coombs said. “It seems like were in kind of a fluid situation … We’ll definitely have to sit down in the near future and start talking about that will look like and how it will work.”