Proposed cost-cutting realignment sparks discord with small schools
When George Whittell High School battled the Sparks Railroaders in tournament play at Dayton High School last Thursday, the Warriors knew that even if they lost by a mile, it would be against a team that plays in a league two divisions larger.
Indeed, the 4A Sparks team team routed the 2A Whittell Warriors 70-45. The average Railroader was taller, faster, and with more experience. And when they tired, the depth of the Railroaders’ bench overwhelmed that of Whittell’s.
However, the Warriors might soon face the Railroaders in the same division under a geographic realignment that is currently being reviewed by the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association.
Proposed by NIAA Executive Director Jerry Hughes, the plan would group schools based on geographic location and, to a lesser extent, size. Whittell, with 236 students, would be the smallest school in a new 3A North league and the Railroaders, with 1,135 students, would be the largest school.
The realignment would affect all sports except football, where the current structure would remain unchanged.
Hughes was asked by the NIAA board to come up with solutions to save money because school districts in Nevada and California are currently facing a major financial crisis.
According to a bill draft request sponsored by the Nevada Association of School Boards and the Nevada Association of School Superintendents, school district financial cuts amassed over the last three years has reached approximately $85 million.
Only four out of 17 Nevada school districts have managed to escape budget cuts, said John Soderman, Douglas County School District superintendent.
Most of the cuts have come from the state’s largest school districts such as Clark and Washoe, the latter of which cut $8 million last year to balance its budget.
Lake Tahoe Unified School District is facing more than $1 million in shortfalls due to declining enrollment.
While Douglas County has avoided significant budget reductions, Whittell would still be forced to change its classification. The idea, said WHS athletic director Brian Mehrer, has drawn virtually unanimous discord.
“Nobody that I have talked to is in agreement with this,” Mehrer said.
“If it passes, it’s going to put a big damper on our athletics for a couple reasons. First, we can’t compete with schools that have 1,200 kids … (and second) it’s tough to have kids come out when you’re getting beat time after time by these bigger schools.”
Mehrer added that Yerington’s 3A football program is going extinct because it continues to lose. The school, he said, is petitioning to move down to 2A.
“The new realignment wouldn’t include football, but I see the same thing happening with other sports like basketball,” Mehrer said.
Hughes said the plan has received favorable reviews from schools that have financial problems, and those with major travel costs such as West Wendover. He said WWHS traveled almost 100,000 miles last year and that the new proposal would cut that figure in half.
Another option that the NIAA board may consider in the future is limiting the state tournament to two teams, the No. 1 seeds from the North and South.
To learn more about how much money the realignment would save, Hughes asked each classification representative (i.e. 1A, 2A, etc.) to provide cost estimates with the new plan. That information is scheduled to be presented at the next NIAA board meeting.
The NIAA will also have informational meetings on the subject during the state basketball tournament in February in Reno.
(all sports except football)
NORTH D 18
Smith Valley 84
Pyramid Lake 108
Virginia City 133
Mineral County 206
EAST D 15
Round Mountain 117
Lake Mead 71
Calvary Chapel 85
Pahranagat Valley 93
Mountain View 99
Trinity Christian 103
Indian Springs 108
Lincoln County 184
Silver Stage 292
North Tahoe 526
Bishop Manogue 548
Rite of Passage 550
Pershing County 249
West Wendover 267
Battle Mountain 353
White Pine 393
Spring Creek 820
Faith Lutheran 442
Moapa Valley 575
Virgin Valley 593
Boulder City 738
Pahrump Valley 1004
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