California high schools can breathe a sigh of relief |

California high schools can breathe a sigh of relief

David Gignilliat, Tribune Staff Writer

Moapa Valley football coach Jeff Knutson has weathered an avalanche of criticism in recent months for his leadership in a movement to disallow five border-area California schools from playing for Nevada’s state championships. And, though the topic has lost some of its momentum through traditional routes, Knutson believes that his image of a Nevada for Nevada’s athletes will some day come true.

“This is never going to end,” Knutson said, who recently reported that a survey of 2A and 3A coaches, principals and administrators revealed an overwhelming 75 approval for such an exclusion.”If it’s not me, it will be someone else who helps get this issue resolved.”

The issue continues to proceed through the Nevada state legislature, where a bill remains in committee that would exclude California schools from Nevada’s state championships, he said. Knutson said he is not sure when the legislation might come to the chamber floor for a possible debate or vote.

According to NIAA rules and regulations, a vote to remove or add a team has to pass by a majority vote through the division, league and eight-member NIAA Board of Directors levels. The movement recently lost a division vote 4-2 at a meeting during last week’s state basketball tournament.

Individuals can only initiate the removal/addition process through state-wide league meetings. No such process has yet been initiated and the contentious topic will not be discussed at the March 22 NIAA meeting in Reno, said Donnie Nelson, NIAA sports information director.

“They’ve washed their hands clean of it,” Knutson said. “We tried to go through them, but they didn’t seem to be too receptive.”

If the matter were to make it through the Nevada legislature, the NIAA might have to revise some of its administrative protocol.

“We’ll address that if that happens. As far as the NIAA is concerned, it’s a moot issue right now,” Nelson said. “We want to execute the wishes of our member-schools, whatever those may be.”

Knutson referred to scenarios that exist in several mid-western states, whereby schools located in border towns often compete in a different state’s league throughout the season, but return to their home state in time for the state tournament.

“We’re not trying to revoke the NIAA membership of any schools,” Knutson said. “We just don’t want the California schools to be playing for Nevada championships.”

Knutson said he would like to see the process completed by the 2000-01 season, giving the would-be-exiled California schools what he would see as ample time to make arrangements with the California Interscholastic Federation for state playoff qualifications.

Knutson has taken exception to some recent comments from NIAA executive director Dr. Jerry Hughes, whom he believes is discrediting his lobbying efforts by unfairly exaggerating his group’s aims.

“He is not representing the views of 70 percent of our (2A and 3A) schools,” Knutson said. “He is sticking with the 30 percent minority and is spreading mostly misinformation about what we are trying to do.”

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