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Commentary: South rules the roost; don’t expect that to change
by Dan Eckles - Commentary
Jul 05, 2011 | 896 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In doing research last week for the package of stories that ran in last Sunday’s paper on, more realignment upcoming for high school sports in the Silver State, I talked to more than one coach who was frustrated. However, I felt the pain specifically in the gripe of Bishop Manogue boys basketball coach Bill Ballinger.

“The frustrating thing is the South gets to dictate what the rest of the state does,” he said. “They have the power and they utilize it as long as they have it.”

The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association, the state’s governing body for high school sports, has a nine-member Board of Control and five of those seats are taken by Clark County officials. So when Ballinger says the South has the power, he’s pretty much right on.

Considering the NIAA’s board has a majority of southern Nevada members, don’t expect any issues to be approved that aren’t favorable for Clark County. Additionally, you should probably expect most new policy to be driven by Clark County schools.

Last month, the NIAA approved a realignment plan that breaks up Clark County’s 37 high school into two divisions, Division I being the most competitive schools and D-2 being comprised of relatively new or small schools and schools with rebuilding athletic programs.

Now, the Northern 4A and 3A leagues have decisions to make about what level they want to compete at. The Northern 4A and 3A leagues must choose if they want to play at the D-1 or D-2 level or, in the case of the 3A, if they want to become their own classification.

There aren’t huge ramifications for the North other than making that choice, but you can bet Clark County school leaders didn’t care how their choices affected the rest of the state. And maybe they shouldn’t, but the NIAA should.

In covering high school athletics for more than a decade here in Nevada, I’ve come to the general opinion that athletic administrators in southern Nevada don’t care much about what happens North of Indian Springs. They are focused solely on how their decisions save the almighty dollars.

I don’t get that same feeling as much here in northern Nevada. To their credit, athletic officials in our schools up here value fiscally wise decisions but they value the unique, fun experiences for our student athletes as well. I believe this is a fundamental difference between Reno and Las Vegas.

Las Vegas-area schools have realigned because its best for them and if it adversely affects state competition between North and South schools, so what? They think ‘If the North wants to come along and realign so traditional state competition still exists that’s fine, but we’re not going out of our way to make anything easy.’

That usually leaves Northern 4A school leaders to make decisions that try to keep traditional North-South state play intact. That’s because northern Nevada school officials value high school athletics more, like the tradition of North vs. South.

To us up here, North vs. South is fun. I think that’s because northern Nevada fancies itself the little guy when it gets to compete against southern Nevada.

I have made no secret of my belief that private schools have an unfair advantage in competing with public schools for athletes. They’d say it’s not recruiting, but when you get to sell incoming students on the positives of your school, that’s recruiting. Public schools don’t get to do that.

That’s why Manogue and state, if not national, athletic power Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas, have an unfair edge over their public school counterparts. I don’t like that Manogue gets to play by different rules and because of that sometimes maybe I perceive them as the bad guys. But when they go into state play against southern Nevada foes, at least they’re ‘our bad guys.’

The frustrating thing for Ballinger and coaches across northern Nevada is not much will change. Short of some crazy population exodus from Clark County or an exponential population boom in Washoe County, the voting power for high school athletics will remain in southern Nevada. And northern Nevada athletes will still be left to play along or play by themselves.

Dan Eckles is the Sparks Tribune’s sports editor. He can be reached via email at:

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