The NIAA, the state's governing body for high school sports, put to rest some rumors and concerns surrounding a controversial cost-cutting proposal when it approved, at its quarterly meeting, to adopt new sport-by-sport game limits, but held off on rubber stamping a classification realignment for its member schools.
In early May, NIAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine released a memo outlining a plan that would: reduce the number of officials used in many sports, contract the state's four classifications down to three divisions and trim schedules for programs in many sports. Bonine said he was making the recommendations on a directive from the state's school district superintendents amid the current funding crisis.
Over the past five weeks, the proposal became more conservative. The number of officials used in prep sporting contests won't change, but after recently meeting with officiating leaders from across the state, Bonine announced Tuesday that officials will forfeit a four percent raise that had been agreed to in previous contract talks.
The biggest change to come out of Tuesday's meeting is the new lower sport-by-sport game limit measure. Despite the start of the new school year being less than three months away, the new limits will go into place for 2009-10. That means coaches and athletic directors who have set schedules for next season will likely have to re-evaluate those and possibly back out of some commitments.
"It's frustrating because our schedule was finalized," Spanish Springs boys basketball coach Kyle Penney said. "Now I have to go back and ask what games do I want to get rid of vs. what games does somebody else want to get rid of. That may not match.
"I can understand the money saving concept. That's important. I just wish I knew some of the cost savings on it. I need some figures. I'm all for it, if it's something we need to do, but I want to know what we're saving. If it's substantial, I'll say, 'Nice work guys.'"
Exact or even vague savings figures have not really been discussed by NIAA staff. The closest thing to that came during Tuesday's meeting when Bonine said, "The games limit, in the grand scheme of things, may saves hundreds or it may save thousands of dollars. There will be districts that will be cutting them back further."
Nevada's prep basketball programs will have to cut back from 20 games and two tournaments to 18 games and two tournaments. Penney wasn't the only local coach less than thrilled with the Tuesday's game limit decision.
"I was actually looking for one or two more games. Now I guess I won't have to worry about that," Reed boys basketball coach Dustin Hall said. "It is a little frustrating. I know in talking to some other coaches they had schedules done and filled up. So I'm sure for some of those programs will have to break ties on some games. It will upset those people. And it's tough for kids, who want to play as many games as they can."
Silver State high school boys and girls programs in volleyball, soccer and tennis will also cut from 20 games to 18 games and the two tournaments. Under the new limits, ski and golf teams may compete in 12 matches and two invitationals. Wrestling will be left with 15 total contacts.
Baseball and softball programs drop from 24 games and two tournaments to 21 games and two tournaments. In Bonine's original memo released last month, baseball and softball were getting cut to 18 games like many other sports. Initially Tuesday, Bonine upped that limit to 20 but it was later raised to 21 after concerns surfaced regarding the 4A Sierra League's built-in master schedule which calls for 21 league games. In the eight-team Sierra League, baseball and softball teams play seven three-game series.
"The superintendents, who are our governing body, wanted lower numbers, but was it 10 percent?" said NIAA Board member and Reno High principal Bob Sullivan. "My whole thing was come up with a number or a formula so when people ask, we can say we reduced schedules by two or three games or whatever ... I wanted something concrete so you can give someone a good explanation."
•No change on the gridiron
The game limit for football was left unchanged. Schools can still play nine games and pay a set fee to play a tenth game. That set fee goes to help fund the NIAA's Hall of Fame program.
"It's been said many times but we want to play as many games as we possibly can," Reed football coach Ernie Howren said. "We work so hard all season so to have the opportunity to get the tenth game and be out there competing is something we want."
The unchanged limit for football was a big relief for some 4A High Desert League coaches, who only have eight master schedule games and were having a hard time filling a late season bye week. Spanish Springs is in that category. The Cougars were looking at possibly getting only eight games if the NIAA took away the potential to play a Hall of Fame game. That's because SSHS has a late-October bye week. Hare said he has made calls across the West but has been unable to find an opponent with a common open weekend.
"It's a definitely a relief," Spanish Springs football coach Scott Hare said of the NIAA's decision that continued to allow prep football teams to play nine games plus a hall of fame game. "I want to play Carson (in a hall of fame game). They're going going to be a pretty good football team. It's too late to be making changes. I'm glad level heads prevailed."
While football programs predominantly have made use of the hall of fame game, all sports can pay the extra fee to play a hall of fame game.
•More time to study
While the game limit reduction had enough support to pass, the classification realignment did not. That had become evident in recent weeks, especially in Washoe County where school district officials were having growing concerns the plan would actually increase travel costs for local teams.
"We're relieved we're not trying to re-invent the wheel," WCSD Student Services Director Ken Cass said. "Honestly it would have been a tough go (to immediately realign the state's classifications). I'm glad we have time to look it over and be an active participant in a realignment process."
The realignment issue did not even come up for vote Tuesday. It was tabled for further consideration. Bonine said the proposed three division plan — for all sports except football — could work as a good starting point for an NIAA committee to further study realignment in hopes of cutting back on travel expenses and lost school time.
"Overall, the feedback was 85 percent positive," Bonine said on the three division realignment proposal. "It does not save a lot of money for some and it saves a lot of money for others ... It has started good dialogue. What we have is a year to set up a committee, survey schools and come up with a plan.
"I'm so thankful to be in this position where we have a year. Because at one point, I thought we were going to be in a situation where we forced it down people's throats. I didn't want that."