Lawmakers suggest dual awards for state championship games |

Lawmakers suggest dual awards for state championship games

Christy Chalmers

A Senate committee considering a bill that would not allow South Tahoe and four other California high schools to compete for Nevada state titles is searching for a compromise.

State lawmakers suggested Friday they might favor a dual award system instead of banning California schools from postseason play in Nevada’s sports leagues.

“That wouldn’t be such a bad thing,” said STHS Athletic Director Frank Kovac, who was one of four South Tahoe representatives at the meeting. “The important thing to me is to know what they are going to call it.”

Kovac said calling it anything but the Nevada state championship would “water down” the honor. However, it would be a compromise he would probably accept.

However, the idea was not embraced by leaders of the effort to keep the California schools out of Nevada championship games. But one agreed there is “room for compromise.”

The discussion revolved around Senate Bill 489, which would prevent California high schools that are members of the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association from playing in NIAA championship games.

The schools are members of the NIAA because they’re closer to Nevada than other California communities, and travel, especially in winter, can be risky, expensive and time-consuming.

Moapa Valley High football coach Jeff Knutson, who is leading the SB489 charge, told the Senate Human Resources and Facilities Committee that limiting championship contention to Nevada schools is only fair.

“My problem is if you’re the best team in Nevada, you should be the Nevada state champion and not have to be better than somebody from another state,” said Knutson.

“We’ll open up our competition and our leagues. We believe when it’s all over, Nevada schools should win Nevada championships,” added Fernley High football coach Dave Hart.

Class AAA football seems to be at the heart of the situation.

Knutson began his campaign, which was unsuccessful in the NIAA, after Moapa lost in November at Truckee in the football semifinals. Truckee has won four Nevada football titles this decade, and hasn’t lost to Fernley in 19 years.

However, in nearly two decades of competition in Nevada, South Tahoe has won just three state team titles – two in boys basketball and one in volleyball.

The committee didn’t take any action, though committee chairman Ray Rawson predicted a compromise is probably in the works, with the wishes of Nevadans taking precedence. Kovac said it was his understanding that action needs to be taken by Friday or the bill will die in committee.

Proponents of the bill said the cost of traveling to the California schools can be high, the travel time takes athletes out of class and in some cases the California schools were uncooperative with scheduling.

Opponents, including several students from the border schools, said the bill is unnecessarily divisive.

“Right now, nobody’s being hurt. Many students are being helped,” said Bill Darrow, athletic director at Needles (Calif.) High School, which competes in the 1A division. “Many schools like ours have no other options. Everything we do is in Nevada.”

“It’s really kind of taking away our participation in the league by taking away our ability to win,” said North Tahoe High student John Wojcik. “All our history lies in Nevada.”

South Tahoe football coach Tim Jaureguito compared excluding the border schools from championship competition to “setting our athletes up for failure.

“If you want to call it (the NIAA championship) something else, that’s fine,” said Jaureguito. “Everybody knows who’s the best, and that’s the bottom line.”

Sen. Rawson, R-Las Vegas, suggested establishing a dual award in the form of a conference or regional championship trophy that would complement a Nevada state crown in the event of a bi-state championship game.

“That may fit the criteria of allowing the best team to walk off and know they won the championship,” said Rawson. “It also would allow Nevada teams to walk away with the Nevada state championship.”

Rawson also suggested requiring postseason games to be held in Nevada in response to Knutson’s complaints about California venues hosting them.

Others said the issue seems only to affect mid-size schools that don’t like the football competition offered by the Californians. Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, said he hasn’t heard any complaints from 1A or 4A schools, while Sen. Bernice Mathews, D-Sparks, noted the overwhelming concern seems to involve Truckee’s almost-perennial presence in the state 3A football championship game.

“It’s unfortunate it wasn’t worked out at the 3A level,” said Amodei, who once played basketball for Carson High. “I don’t think it’s a 1A or a 4A issue.”

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