The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association released its proposal in early May but after getting plenty of public backlash in the following weeks it looked as though the proposal — which includes new lower game limits and an emergency classification realignment — had lost support, at least in the short term. NIAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine admitted as much in an interview during the state softball tournament in Las Vegas on May 22.
That no longer appears to be the case. After meeting with superintendents from the state's 17 school districts earlier this week, Bonine amended the agenda for the NIAA's June 16-17 Board of Control meeting to make the cost-cutting proposal an action item.
So what changed over the past two weeks?
“They wanted to move forward with cost-cutting measures as soon as possible,” Bonine said, alluding to a group decision by the state's superintendents. “The biggest thing was we waited to meet until the last day of the Legislature had passed. Now they know their exact (education funding) figures. They have all that information. Now districts can choose where their cuts will come from. The majority are choosing not to cut salaries for teachers and finding other places to cut from.”
And some of those cuts could come from athletics.
Under the NIAA's cost-savings proposal, programs in soccer, basketball, volleyball, baseball and softball will all be limited to 18 games and two tournaments. Compared to current standards, that is no change for soccer, a subtraction of two games for volleyball and basketball and a subtraction of six games for baseball and softball. The tournament limit would not change.
If the NIAA's Board of Control votes for immediate implementation of the new lower game limits, it will leave prep coaches around the state breaking commitments since many have already completed schedules for the 2009-10 school year.
“I've got the wheels in my head spinning right now, thinking what could I get rid of if I have to,” Spanish Springs boys basketball coach Kyle Penney said Friday night. “It's going to be tough to please everyone. If the change started next year it would be easier because everybody would know ahead of time.”
Another component of the proposal calls for reducing the number of officials needed for sporting events. However, high school sports funding — coaches' salaries, travel and officiating — makes up less than 0.4 percent of the Washoe County School District's current $456 million budget. So it's unclear how much savings the district would realize from any athletic cuts.
“I do think the games limit would save the district some money,” WCSD Student Services Coordinator Ken Cass said. “It would lower our officiating costs and you wouldn't have to pay as much overtime for school police.”
The other key part of the cost-cutting proposal is the emergency classification realignment, which would contract the state's four classifications (4A, 3A, 2A, 1A) down to three (Divisions I, II and III). This plan is popular among many of Nevada's rural administrators as it could give some of the state's smaller school districts measurable savings in sports-related travel.
This may not be the case for the WCSD. 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, making for additional lodging costs.
“As it looks right now, I don't see it saving us any money and it has some potential big time-added costs for us,” Cass said. “We all want to do what's best for the state, but Esmeralda, White Pine and Elko counties aren't going to help pay Washoe County's bills. I have to be a good steward for our needs here.
“It (realignment) can't just be good for outlying counties. It has to be good for all of us or that's wrong.”
Bonine spoke with the Tribune late Friday afternoon after getting out of an annual meeting with commissioners of each NIAA recognized sport. He said he planned to ask board members to view the game limits separate from the realignment issue.
Bonine added that his recommendation to the board would be two-fold. He plans to recommend a vote for implementation of the game limits for the 2009-10 school year. But then he also added he will recommend the realignment issue be tabled for further study. That is a different stance from the memo he released Tuesday, following the superintendents' meeting, in which he wrote he'd recommend both the game limits and realignment be approved.
“We've gotten a lot of feedback (on the proposal). I've been pleased with that,” Bonine said. “Academics come first and I want to give districts the opportunity to address that.”