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NIAA addresses concussion, heat, pods

Steve Puterski
sputerski@lahontanvalleynews.com

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Concussions have been the focal point of athletic safety for the past several years.

And the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association is no different when it comes to protecting high school athletes. The NIAA approved its concussion policy and officially adopted those guidelines at its meeting last week in Las Vegas.

Assistant Director Donnie Nelson said the NIAA had a policy in place for many years, but it was never “official” until the Board of Control approved the mandate last week.

While the NIAA’s policy is stringent, the schools have gone “far and beyond” of the standards required by the NIAA and Nevada law (Assembly Bill 458), according to Nelson.

“It’s a pretty extensive program, and it already did exist,” Nelson said. “What we didn’t have was an actual rule, per se. What was created was a minimal policy.”

In addition to the concussion issue, the NIAA also addressed weather and heat-related illnesses. The board will allow football teams to begin practice five days earlier (Aug. 4) than the regularly scheduled date (Aug. 9).

The earlier start date will allow for a heat acclimatization period, although no “protective equipment (helmets, pads, etc.)” may be worn by any athlete. In addition, the four-day period is only for “structured/coached” conditioning.

Helmets can be worn Aug. 9-11 and players can suit up in full pads on Aug. 13.

Discussion about the pods, or leagues, in Division-IA (formerly 3A) and competitive balance among many of the 2A schools will also be a topic in future meetings, Nelson said. Athletic directors will meet to determine the future of the leagues later this summer.

Currently, the Northern D-IA is the only classification in the state to combine 3A and 2A schools. The leagues consist of the Mount Rose, Lahontan and Ruby Mountain league in most sports.

Football plays in one combined league in D-IA and D III (formerly 2A) and soccer is split into the Humboldt and Sierra leagues. Swimming and tennis compete at the DI (formerly 4A) level.

Nelson, though, said the pods will remain for the next two years until the next realignment cycle.

“It’s my understanding that it (the pods) will continue for two more years,” Nelson said. “That doesn’t mean it will end in two years. Schedules have been done … things are in place for two more years.”

Aug. 1 is the next athletic administrators meeting, and Nelson said he expects “very candid and frank discussions” about the system.

He said numerous factors play into the decision from travel cost to competitive balance. Many 2A schools lack the student population to compete in the D-IA and routinely suffer lopsided losses in many sports.

“I think depending on who you ask, they’ll say there are positives and negatives,” Nelson said.

When asked if any school or administrator has approached the NIAA about allowing a specific sport at a school to play “up” or “down” a classification, Nelson said that issue has not been raised in several years.

Some smaller schools, such as Yerington in volleyball, softball and baseball, have overwhelmed their DIII rivals in those specific sports, leading to displeasure that those teams at Yerington are allowed to compete in DIII.

Many states allow a school to petition the governing board to play in a classification outside its general status if a specific team is not good enough or too competitive in that class.

In other states, for example, a football team could request to play in the highest classification, while the rest of the sports remain in the second-highest class.

“The board has always turned those (requests) down,” Nelson said. “The reason the board has always turned those down is the board’s philosophy is, you move up with everything or nothing. We haven’t seen a petition for a school to move up in the last couple years.”

In other NIAA action –

• The NIAA sanctioned boys volleyball and bowling to allow those sports a state tournament in the Southern D-IA. The NIAA’s policy states a league must have at least nine member schools to justify a state tournament. Northern schools do not participate in either sport.

Girls golf in DIII will now have to qualify for the state tournament through regional tournaments. The approval will last for two years.

Girls and boys soccer in DIII was not approved for its own state tournament. DIII soccer in the north consists of D-IA and DIII schools in the Humboldt and Sierra leagues.

“There’s not three divisions playing soccer,” Nelson added. “It did not pass to have an extra soccer tournament.”

Skiing in DI was tabled.

• The NIAA recognized Findlay Prep, the basketball academy in Las Vegas. Findlay Prep, though, is not allowed by the NIAA to participate for the state tournament and cannot enroll any Nevada student-athlete.

The approval, though, was to allow Findlay Prep to continue competition against Nevada schools and other schools throughout the country who will not schedule a prep school that is not recognized by its state’s governing body.

• Liberty Baptist, a Division IV school in Las Vegas, was not approved for full membership, and Nelson said the school’s status is classified as independent. The status allows Liberty Baptist to compete against member schools, and Nelson said Liberty Baptist may reach full membership in one to two years.

The school has a current enrollment of 42.

– Steve Puterski is the sports editor of the Lahontan Valley News.


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