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Hot Topics: Northern 4A AD's face tough scheduling decisions
by Dan Eckles
Jan 26, 2012 | 777 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune file photo - The Spanish Springs football program and the rest of its Northern 4A counterparts have yet to receive a league schedule for the 2012 season.
Tribune file photo - The Spanish Springs football program and the rest of its Northern 4A counterparts have yet to receive a league schedule for the 2012 season.
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Tribune file photo — Northern 4A crossover league games, like this one pitting Galena and Reed, are a controversial issue among regional administrators and coaches.
Tribune file photo — Northern 4A crossover league games, like this one pitting Galena and Reed, are a controversial issue among regional administrators and coaches.
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The Northern 4A’s top athletic officials have some tough decisions to make this spring. The conference’s athletic directors and athletic administrators met Monday at their bi-monthly meeting and are still scrambling to settle on a football league format for the upcoming fall season.

Athletic directors Ron Coombs at Reed and Art Anderson at Spanish Springs both confirmed three proposals are on the table for debate. AD’s at the Northern 4A’s 12 member schools were asked to take the proposals back to campus, study them with their football coaches and choose the plan they liked the best.

“No decision has been made,” Coombs said. “What we were instructed to do is by this Friday, talk to our coaches and administration and arrive at a decision we think is best. Then, submit that vote. I’d assume by our next meeting, March 12, there should be a finalized vote on which way we’re going.”

The AD’s were asked to turn in their preliminary vote this week by email. Coombs said a final vote on the issue may even take place sooner rather than later. Anderson agreed, stressing that football coaches need to know their open dates as soon as possible to be able to complete their schedules.

“First we want to narrow it down from three proposals to two,” Anderson said. “We’re feeling a lot of pressure to get this done. We have to give the coaches as much time as possible and we’re already behind.”

McQueen AD Eric Borja is the commissioner of scheduling for football. He has proposed the three options to the Northern 4A schools. One proposal uses the same format Northern 4A schools have played under the last two years. That comprises the Northern 4A as one 11-team league where schools play eight league games and miss two league foes each year.

The other two proposals break up the Northern 4A into the two-league format — High Desert and Sierra — that all other team sports utilize. Those two proposals vary in when teams have open dates and when they play other schools, but are relatively the same.

“A second vote may even come earlier,” Coombs said. “This week will be a first vote and then we may get another final vote soon … I’m assuming the turnaround will be a lot quicker than March.”

The quiet consensus seems to be that the athletic administrators will choose one of the two options incorporating a two-league format. If one of those passes, Reed and Spanish Springs football will play in a six-team High Desert League.

The Sparks schools would play five league games, presumably near the end of a 10-week schedule. They would then be given three early season non-league games on their master schedule against Sierra League foes. That would leave one open date and possibly a second if schools choose to play the optional season-opening Hall-of-Fame game that supports NIAA programs.

“It’s really frustrating right now to be sitting here and not have our schedules,” said Ernie Howren, coach of defending Northern 4A champion Reed. “We are getting emails from California people and others that we’ve built connections with, asking if we want a game on this date or that. I don’t even know what my open dates are. The frustrating part is they’ll start going to other people and we will be in a spot where we miss out on those opportunities. This has got to get done, the sooner the better.”

•Another hot topic among Northern 4A athletic administrators is the issue of crossover league games. Currently, the Northern 4A’s volleyball, soccer and basketball programs have a league schedule that consists of home and away games against each team in their own league — High Desert or Sierra — and one game against each of the six teams in the opposite league. The latter are called crossover league games and count toward league standings. Schools play three of those at home and three on the road.

That format forces programs to play counting league games within the first week of their schedule as opposed to a more traditional league format used by many other states and regions where schools play early season non-league games before opening a league slate a few weeks into their campaigns.

Many coaches, specifically a majority of local prep basketball coaches, are not thrilled with this current setup. Still, Northern 4A administrators voted two months ago to keep the counting crossover league games when they set up schedules for the upcoming realignment cycle which begins with next fall’s new school year.

However, an NIAA Tournament format committee recommended at a meeting last week that crossover league games should not count.

“What’s disappointing is that at the NIAA tournament meeting we said crossover games should not count. We talked and there was not one opposing voice,” said Ken Cass, a committee member who is the Washoe County School District’s coordinator of athletics and activities. “I don’t think counting crossover games is a wise decision quite honestly.

“I know I wouldn’t want them for football,” said Cass, who was an assistant on many of McQueen’s state powerhouse teams of the 1990s and early 2000s. “So I know I wouldn’t want them for basketball or anything else.”

Northern 4A administrators were informed of the tourney committee’s recommendation at their Monday meeting, so some are left with a feeling of ambiguity, looking to the NIAA for direction.

“There’s a little bit of conflict,” Anderson admitted.

But Cass believes ultimately the NIAA won’t force the hand of Northern 4A administrators by forcing them to not count crossover league games. That opinion was reiterated by NIAA Assistant Director Donnie Nelson.

“The Northern 4A is not going to get a recommendation from this office,” he said. “We aren’t going to micromanage how games count. We haven’t done that and we won’t start doing that now.

“We leave that stuff up to the leagues. We are interested in how many teams get into the postseason and the format from there. How the leagues do their regular season and what counts and doesn’t count to determine league seeding is not a major priority of this office. That decision will ultimately lie with Northern 4A administrators.”

It is unclear how the differing views will affect the release of schedules for the 2012-13 school year.

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