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Realignment could again be in store for NIAA

Tony Erquiaga
The Humboldt Sun

The word that everyone loves to hate will be a hot-button topic the next 12 months for high school sports in Nevada — realignment.

Dave Wilson, former principal at Chaparral High School and current chair of the Southern Nevada Reclassification and Alignment Committee, was in Winnemucca, Nev. on Nov. 4 to speak to the Division I-A North athletic directors.

The talks were informal with a number of questions and answers from both sides. Wilson has been asked by NIAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine to chair the state in the next realignment process.

“You (athletic directors) know a heck of a lot more about athletics than I do,” Wilson said. “I don’t have a dog in the fight. I care about the kids and want them to be successful. There were some good things that came out of the realignment in the south, but there are also concerns I need to hear about.”

A committee will be formed in the near future to discuss realignment for the 2016-17 school year. A number of possibilities have been brought to the forefront.

“The talks will continue — I don’t know if anything will be changed, and I don’t know if there’s a problem that need to be solved in Division I-A North,” South Tahoe athletic director Tony Sunzeri said. “I’ve heard a couple of different ideas from league officials, grumblings from some coaches, and rumors through the grapevine from people involved in athletics at other high schools that are in a different division that us — it’s hard to really form an opinion based on so many different things out there.”

One possibility is sport-by-sport realignment in different leagues. That was met with very little support of the athletic directors in the room, and Sunzeri said all of the northern Nevada schools were against it.

“There’s too many things that can go wrong with that, and too many irons in the fire that can prevent schools from really moving up into the division they deserve to be in,” Sunzeri said.

Three southern Nevada schools were at the crux of the conversation — Faith Lutheran, Clark and Desert Pines. Faith Lutheran is a private school in Las Vegas and won six state championships in Division I-A a season ago — South Tahoe’s girls soccer team beat the Crusaders in this year’s state semifinals.

“It seems like Clark County runs things and are the big dogs,” Fernley athletic director Jeff Knuston said. “The more of those teams that you put into our league, what does that do to us? Our league runs pretty good. It concerns me that they will want a majority of the playoff teams. You start opening opportunities for them, you limit them for us.”

Faith Lutheran just built a multi-million dollar facility that included a new gym and state-of-the-art weight room — with the current realignment, Faith Lutheran was given the status of refusal to move to Division I because of its enrollment. Clark and Desert Pines are defined as magnet schools in Las Vegas, which basically means open enrollment for them if a student qualifies.

“It doesn’t matter where you live, you can go play anywhere you want,” Sunzeri said. “There are some schools that take advantage of that and do really well — and it’s very difficult for us to compete against those schools.”

Another idea that has been floated around is splitting up the Division I and I-A schools to create a third league (Division II). If that occurred, there would be the possibility of a super league in Las Vegas that would consist of eight to 10 of the top schools in the area — those schools would play for a city championship instead of a state title.

The next division would include the current Division I schools in northern Nevada (Reno, Galena, Carson, Reed, to name a few) and the next tier of Division I schools in the Las Vegas area. However, in that move the likes of Desert Pines, Clark, Sierra Vista and Faith Lutheran would be bumped up to that league.

A third league (Division II) would go back to the old 3A and have those teams play. The Division I-A North would be the same, except with the talks of perhaps adding a Hug or Wooster.

“I like the way Division I-A North is constructed — I think it’s set up nicely and it’s working,” Sunzeri said.

The Division II South would have a rural feeling with Moapa Valley, Boulder City, Virgin Valley and Pahrump coming on board. The remainder of the league would consist of the lowest-scoring schools currently being used in the rubric system. Those schools may include Western, Chaparral, Sunrise Mountain or Spring Valley.

“You would have built-in schools that are not as competitive,” Wilson said. “In my world, I am looking at a Western or Sunrise Mountain that is not winning anything. They are not magnet schools. You don’t see them in the playoffs. My number one thing about realignment is balance. I want to give every kid the ability to compete for a state championship.”

Wilson added that the concern is what the schools in northern Nevada want and how the schools want to see the future play out.

“We’re competitive at South Tahoe High School, and we’re good enough to play in the division that we’re in — I’m proud of that,” Sunzeri said. “And I think we could compete in Division I in some sports if we needed to.”

The plans are to start the realignment talk as quickly as possible and have it set by sometime next fall for the 2016-17 season to get schedules done by individual schools.

Note: Tribune sports editor Anthony Gentile contributed to this report.


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