The item was aimed at Las Vegas prep power Bishop Gorman. The private Catholic school has won 17 state championships since 2006 in boys and girls basketball, football and baseball, leading to an outcry from the state’s public schools that they are no longer on an even playing field with the Gaels’ athletic program.
After some public comments, pointed words from Board of Control members and a question-and-answer period with Bishop Gorman President John Kilduff, the NIAA ultimately decided Tuesday to form a committee that can study competitive balance and look for solutions to end Bishop Gorman’s power play in the major sports over the last five-plus years.
“I’m glad to get the issue out in the open,” NIAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine said. “We need to address Bishop Gorman High School.
“This wasn’t for show … With the exception of maybe some creative scheduling, something is probably not going to happen for 2012-13. It’s going to take awhile. In the meantime, what do we do between now and then.”
Last month, Bonine met with Bishop Gorman leaders and asked them to consider an Associate Membership for Gaels sports teams, a status which would not allow them to compete for state championships. In a letter to the NIAA last week, Kilduff said his school had no interest in changing its membership status
However, in Tuesday’s meeting Kilduff did say he understands the NIAA’s concerns with his school and that Gorman leaders are open to discussing options that will promote competitive balance. At meeting’s end, Kilduff seemed upbeat about the proceedings.
“I think it well,” he said. “We’re hoping for an open dialogue about creating competitive balance … We’re hopeful for solutions toward that and being part of a committee that can contribute to that.”
Bonine and NIAA Board of control President Bob Sullivan, the principal at Reno High School, will select the committee, which is expected to be comprised of representatives from Gorman, the state’s other private schools, NIAA Board members and possibly even consultants from outside the state.
While Kilduff openly answered questions about Bishop Gorman’s tuition assistance program and its stance on recruiting, it was clear resentment around the state exists against the Gaels’ athletic department.
Washoe County School District Coordinator of Athletics Ken Cass wrote a letter in December on behalf of his district’s athletic directors, voicing their frustrations with Gorman’s ascent to state super power. Cass likened Gorman’s 40-point romp over Hug in last month’s 4A state hoop tournament championship game to taking a plastic spoon, not even a knife, to a gunfight.
Cass stressed that he felt Kilduff was honest in his answers to questions Tuesday but stopped well short of believing Gorman cleared up all negative perceptions about its athletic programs.
“I really enjoyed their school President,” Cass said. “I thought he did a good job in a tough situation. He was open and forthright. But I’m not sure he really knows what’s going on in athletics. I do think there are some “head-in-the-sand” issues. Another issue that I don’t know if we really got to and is totally independent, is private sponsorship.”
Cass was alluding to the idea of a Gorman booster paying the tuition of a gifted athlete that comes from a financially-strapped family that would not otherwise be able to afford the private school’s tuition. NIAA attorney Paul Anderson asked Kilduff if his school addressed or discouraged the private sponsorship issue with coaches and boosters. Kilduff said it is discussed but did not elaborate further.
Clark County Director of Athletics Ray Mathis said frustrations with Gorman are at an all-time high among Las Vegas public schools, adding some southern Nevada principals are considering forfeiting games against Gorman in protest.
“When it gets to the point that principals would rather forfeit games than get kids hurt, than it becomes time for the (NIAA) Board to get involved,” Mathis said. “This is a small state. We have to have all of our members come to the table to work toward a solution that works for everybody.”
A solution that works for everybody may not be feasible. Palo Verde boasts some of the top athletic programs in the state, but even it has been on the losing end of lopsided scores to Gorman in recent years.
“The bottom line is this, we have different goals for our athletic programs,” Palo Verde Principal and NIAA Board of Control member Dan Phillips said. “Athletics are an extra curricular activity in public schools. They (Bishop Gorman) have goals of nation recognition, competing for national rankings. I’ve said it before. If they want to be a national power and be on ESPN, I’ll cheer for them every time. But it’s detestable to see them play (national power) Servite on ESPN one week and see them going out to Pahrump the next. We’re just done being the tackling dummy for their preparations.
“They say the success is cyclical, but I see a 6-11 freshman on the (basketball team’s) bench. I see seven coaches on the bench for 15 players and then I have to find a way to pay an assistant coach with a gift card, which cannot exceed $50 I might add. We are done.”
Bonine said no time will be wasted forming a committee and getting that group together to brainstorm ideas on how to improve competitive balance without completely alienating Bishop Gorman.
“We’ll definitely have some ideas by the next meeting, in June,” Bonine said. “We can’t let this continue to fester. We’ve got to strike while the iron’s hot or whatever adage you want to use. We’ll get on this.”