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Reed left to evaluate future after losing right to host playoff football game
by Dan Eckles
Nov 26, 2013 | 1634 views | 1 1 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune file photo - The uneven playing surface on the Reed football field is marred by patchy grass and clumps of dirt. The school is being forced to examine the field's future.
Tribune file photo - The uneven playing surface on the Reed football field is marred by patchy grass and clumps of dirt. The school is being forced to examine the field's future.
A day after the Reed High football program learned it would no longer host Saturday's state semifinal, RHS coaches and administrators were left thinking about the ramifications of the change.

The NIAA called Reed's field unsafe and unsuitable in a memo Monday and then stripped the east Sparks school of its hosting rights, moving Saturday's playoff affair to Bishop Manogue.

In the aftermath of the decision, Reed Athletic director Ron Coombs has had plenty to think about.

"I think everyone is focused on what can we do to get our field in better shape," Coombs said. "That's the worst-kept secret in Reno-Sparks, that our field needs to be improved."

Reed officials were infuriated Monday when they learned of the NIAA's decision and felt they were left out of the decision-making process. But by Tuesday most were focused on making the best of a bad situation. Coombs said Raiders football coach Ernie Howren, initially incensed over Reed losing the home game, had told his players and supporters by Tuesday morning they needed to refocus on the task at hand and that was beating Las Vegas power Liberty on Saturday, not worrying so much about the matchup's venue.

"I thought it was great," Coombs said. "The kids are using this as a rallying cry. It's really galvanized our parents, administration and staff. We know the field is not in the best condition, but this should galvanize the Reed High community to get something done ... We're treating this more as an opportunity than anything else. Our kids are 100 percent focused on winning and getting to that state championship game next week in Las Vegas."

While the NIAA takes all the gate receipts from postseason games, host schools can raise funds through concession sales. Coombs said he believes Reed will lose, even in a conservative estimate, about $2,500 by no longer having the opportunity to sell concessions Saturday. He added that's pretty easy money for a three-hour window.

Coombs added that athletic programs at Reed that earn hosting rights, get first crack at staffing the concessions booth and thus taking home profits. He said the RHS football program benefitted from the school's first- and second-round home playoff games. Then he said the RHS wrestling program was set to handle the concessions chores Saturday, but will now miss out.

"This round was wrestling's turn," Coombs said. "Wrestling is not a revenue-producing sport. That program travels out of state on almost a weekly basis. So our wrestling program suffers because of this (NIAA) decision."

Reed's football field may not be aesthetically pleasing, but whether it's unsafe or not is up for debate. While the NIAA has called it just that, the Washoe County School District disputes the label, stressing the school's staff has worked hard to keep the field playable.

A district statement issued exclusively to the Tribune said, "the safety of our student athletes is a primary concern at the Washoe County School District. In order to provide the best playing field possible at Reed High School, district personnel have consistently worked on the field this year, providing aeration, seeding, watering, fertilization, sanding and leveling."

NIAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine said in a press conference Tuesday he did not want to talk about his agency's stance on the playability of the Reed field beyond the present time. Critics of the RHS facility, and others who believe the property is unsafe, would like to see the school refrain from using it again until changes are made.

Coombs knows the price tag that comes with renovating the field. The RHS athletic director said the field needs to be dug up at least four inches to rid the ground of an unhealthy salt layer left by the school's use of effluent water. After the field is dug up, it would need to be dressed with new top soil, crowned and given a new layer of fresh sod.

Coombs believes a project like that could run up an expense of $60,000. Additionally, the school's track facility, which surrounds the football field, and was at one time the premiere site in northern Nevada, has degraded as well. Drainage issues from the football field have left the track cracked and in a state of disrepair.

It would be tough for the school to fix the football field and not address the track facility issues.

"We could do all of these things (football field improvements) and in 10 years from now, you might be writing another article as to why it doesn't look the way it used to," Coombs said in a Tuesday afternoon phone interview.

"We'd still be using the same effluent water. We could have the same drainage issues and maybe a few years down the road, we're dealing with the same things. I'm sure the decision to use effluent water 10 years ago maybe was a good one. But sometimes when you make those decisions, you don't see the unintended costs. It's driven us to where we are now."

Coombs said to construct a new football field without fixing the track facility and changing watering practices, could be 'throwing good money after bad.' A Tribune investigation in the summer of 2012 showed the price tag for Reed to tear up its track and football complex, fix drainage issues and then build a new facility could bring a price tag that reaches into the range of $500,000 to $750,000 or more. Additionally, Reed would likely be forced to play at least one season of football on a secondary site.

"These are questions that have to be answered at a much higher pay grade than mine," Coombs said. "The district must decide which direction we are going. There is a lot of number crunching, but ultimately, we're doing a lot of patchwork. I'm spending five to eight thousand a year out of our athletics budget and we're still fighting the same battles."

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James IV
November 27, 2013
We have truly become a nation of sissys. Reed played there all year and now it is unsafe. Really?
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