An NIAA memo Monday called Reed's field unsafe and unsuitable. A day later, the NIAA, which governs high school athletics in the Silver State, explained its decision to strip Reed's hosting rights.
"Knowing what that field looks like, and what I think could be a problem, I'm not going to allow people to play on it," NIAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine said, alluding to Reed's football field. "A game of this magnitude, I want to make sure playing conditions don't come into play."
Bonine issued those comments at a Tuesday afternoon press conference. Supporters of the Reed football program feel the Raiders' home-field advantage, which the team earned after winning a third-straight regional crown last weekend, has been erased with the decision. They wonder why the field was safe for the first two rounds of the postseason -- Reed wins over Douglas and Galena -- but no longer met that standard.
Bonine said he received complaints about the quality of Reed's field after both Reed's first and second-round regional playoff wins. He said the growing concern left him no choice but to look into the matter. Bonine, along with two Washoe County School District Police officers, a Reed groundskeeper and the head of the Northern Nevada Football Officials Association, inspected the RHS football field early Monday morning.
"There are patches with no grass, dirt areas. There's ruts in that field," Bonine said. "I was told when I went out there Monday there would be some slicing done to try and get the grass to come back up, but to my knowledge there's hasn't been any water on the field since the end of September."
One issue surrounding the venue change is the NIAA and the Washoe County School District's differing views regarding whether or not Reed's field is unsafe. While the NIAA made its view clear in Monday's decision to move the playoff contest to Manogue, the WCSD does not seem to be on the page.
The school district spelled out its stance in a statement issued late Tuesday afternoon exclusively to the Tribune. It said:
"Div. I, SYFL, and NIAA playoff contests at all levels -- youth, Freshmen, JV and varsity football and soccer games -- have been played on the Reed High School field over the course of this year without any concerns officially expressed to Student Athletics and Activities by an opposing school, parent group -- or to the WCSD's knowledge -- the NIAA. No problems have been reported over the course of theses games."
The statement went on to say ... "The NIAA did not disclose to the WCSD any specific reason(s) for that decision or give the WCSD an opportunity to remedy any concerns of the NIAA."
Bonine, who last Thursday asked the school district for an audit of Reed's field and to deem it safe in a document on district letterhead, said during Tuesday's press conference he got a similar response from the district last Friday, but added just because the district had not heard complaints and concerns, didn't mean the field was safe and suitable for state playoff football competition.
The NIAA chief admitted during the press conference his agency's decision to deem the field unsafe could cause long-term issues for the school district but he added his top priority was student-athlete safety now.
"It could (bring up concerns for the district)," said Bonine, who oversaw athletics for the WCSD before taking over in his current NIAA job in early 2007. "But anybody here could walk out there on that field and see the same things I saw. They'd have to ask themselves, would they want their kids playing on that?"
So should the WCSD have concerns about allowing athletic contests to continue on the Reed field in the future? Should the district's lawyers start considering the district's legal burden if student athletes are injured on a field already deemed unsafe by the state's governing body for prep sports?
"I would think so," said Paul Anderson, legal counsel for the NIAA. "Right now we're looking at the playoffs, which is an NIAA level. The regular season, those games are at the school district level. You have to remember, we're looking at the safety of our officials as well as primarily the student athletes."
Reed, the DI North champion will meet Sunrise Region champion Liberty in Saturday's state semifinal. Kickoff is set for 1:05 p.m.