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NIAA cost-cutting proposal needs to die
by Dan Eckles - Commentary
May 27, 2009 | 814 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Earlier this month, the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association released a proposal aimed at finding ways to cut athletic budgets for school districts across the state. It outlines measures such as reducing the number of games teams can play and an emergency classification realignment that could reduce travel expenses for athletic programs.

Fans of the proposal are limited largely to the state’s rural superintendents, who see a potential relief in travel expenditures, and current 3A coaches, who like the new classification because it offers a larger, more credible league. Few Washoe County coaches have much good to say about it. That’s not really a surprise. Washoe County’s 4A athletic programs would lose league rivals and game contacts under the plan. They really have nothing to gain.

In talking with NIAA leaders last weekend at the state softball tournament, I got the feeling the proposal is losing some of its initial luster. NIAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine asked school officials statewide to quickly submit their comments on the proposal so he could take the feedback and get an idea on how to proceed before the NIAA’s Board of Control in mid-June.

After gathering some background information, my belief is Bonine will not ask his board to implement many, if any, changes for the 2009-10 school year. He knew the proposal would raise the ire of some folks and he wanted to get people talking about ideas and solutions to better fund prep sports. If that was his goal, it was probably a good plan.

I think the state’s superintendents would like another year to analyze the proposal and its potential effects on their budgets. That’s a good idea because they’re still not quite sure what their budgets will be in the next biennium.

Holding off on any quick changes would be a good thing. When details were initially leaking out about the proposal, Washoe County School District Superintendent Paul Dugan was one of the first to say the proposal needed more time to be studied. He’s right. I’m not sure the WCSD has much to gain if the proposal were to go through.

First of all, monies allocated to athletics — local travel, officiating and coaches’ salaries — is around 0.4 percent of the WCSD’s current budget of more than $456 million dollars. The cost-cutting measures on the table would not even get that figure to 0.35 percent. That’s a minute savings when the Silver State’s school districts may be looking at a 10 percent funding shortfall compared to the past two years.

I know in a budget crunch that any money saved is a good thing, but if you’re going to make changes, you better be sure those changes will save you money. I’m not sure the cost-cutting measures talked about will do that, at least locally.

I don’t see much savings in reducing a program’s game contacts. Game staff workers are paid through gate receipts, so that does not save the district any money. In fact, it will decrease the amount of revenue individual schools take in to spend on their own needs. If a team is not playing, it will likely practice that day, so there’s not a savings in electricity or infrastructure costs.

In the emergency classification realignment, McQueen, Spanish Springs, Reed, Reno and North Valleys would not have to travel to Elko, but Wooster, Hug and possibly Incline would. Plus, they’d travel to Winnemucca, Dayton, Yerington and ROP, which they currently do not. In addition, the eastern Nevada trip would call for an overnight stay to play Elko and Spring Creek so additional lodging costs would pile up. I don’t see a travel savings there for Washoe County.

One big picture problem is some of our school leaders, even some of our school athletic leaders, believe changes must be made to improve perception to the taxpayers. I don’t buy that. If perception is bad, educate people about the reality. We should worry more about how changes affect the opportunities in education for our students. That reality is much more important than perception.

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