STAT presents final check to the school district |

STAT presents final check to the school district

By Jeremy Evans

Tribune staff writer

Last April, Support South Tahoe Athletic Teams was faced with the daunting task of raising $200,000 to save athletics at both South Tahoe High School and middle school. Ten months later, STAT has almost reached its goal – almost being the key word.

The fund-raising group presented a check for $9,600 on Tuesday to the Lake Tahoe Unified School District, a donation that ensured spring sports at the middle school will be fully funded. A month earlier, STAT gave the school district a check for roughly $40,000 that covered spring sports at the high school.

“We have met our financial obligations to the school district, but we haven’t raised enough money for those expenses we have incurred,” said president Mark Garratt.

Since learning athletics weren’t included in the budget for 2004-05 school year, STAT has raised almost $193,000. However, that still leaves the group about $8,000 short of their initial goal, one which needs to meet in order to cover its expenses.

Garratt and Peter Grant, two of the group’s tireless supporters, are still eagerly seeking donations from various businesses. They are also hoping part of that deficit will be filled by proceeds from the Timberwolf/Viking Card, which was introduced last month and will remain on sale until the school year ends in June.

On Tuesday, LTUSD, which was facing a $1.5 million deficit, made its final budget cuts for next year. Athletics were spared, and Grant is hoping that trend continues.

“I can’t see how the school district would ever vote to not have sports in the future,” Grant said. “I think it’s obvious that not having sports would only make them lose more kids. If every kid is worth $5,000 as they say, I think everyone can do the math. The money they think they would be saving by cutting sports would be lost because of all the kids that would leave.”

Although the school district has included athletics in the budget for next year, athletes will still have to pay a transportation fee. For those student-athletes who can’t afford this fee, STAT will assume responsibility for providing them funds. And while not needed anymore to fund athletics, the group will have a bigger role in other fund-raising projects.

“Every kid that wants to play a sport, we’re going to do all we can to make sure they can,” Garratt said. “We are going to make sure that no kid is turned away. We will also raise money for special projects, such as improvements for athletic fields.

“By doing this since last April, we’ve learned a lot. We know which businesses are the biggest spenders and who are the biggest supporters. It was an easy sell. We were offering them a good product. I think the community realizes how important sports are.”

By Darrell Moody

Tribune News Service

Jerry Hughes, 57, has been an educator and coach in Northern Nevada since 1974. In 1989, he was appointed executive director of the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association, and has held that job ever since. He sat down with Nevada Appeal reporter Darrell Moody recently and talked about himself and the NIAA in a question-answer format.

How did you end up in this job?

I kind of fell into it. I was working as director of activities for the Washoe School District when this job came open. I wasn’t sure I even wanted to apply. I had no expectation of getting this job. People said the person would come from Southern Nevada and that there would never be another Northern Nevada guy that would get that job.

Any regrets in your 16 years?

Oh no. The greatest thing about this job are the people you meet. There are a lot of great people that I work with. I’ve met a lot of great people on the national level.

This has been an awesome job. The bad part is enforcing the rules like a cop. Overall, we’re trying to do positive things here, but some people don’t want to recognize them.

What is the biggest problem you have now?

We had issues last year when we lost our title sponsor – U.S. Bank – and were fortunate enough to get the Las Vegas Review Journal. We really restructured a lot of things. The NIAA pass structure was changed. We now charge for those and many people have bought them. I think we’ve done many positive things. We started a coach advisory committee and we look at ways to make a sport better. We have an officials’ task force. We’re doing positive things with the income. We put the Hall of Fame game in, which gives teams a chance to play an extra home game. We got our Hall of Fame back. Two years ago, we didn’t have it when the budget crunch hit and we had to cut the Hall of Fame.

Right now things are going well. We haven’t raised dues once in 16 years and I don’t want to do that. We are trying to keep things going with some corporate sponsorship. Right now, these are pretty good times for the NIAA.

The biggest problem we have is enforcing rules. Everybody wants to argue. People push things even if they are wrong and that has become frustrating. You deal with people that want to complain and argue about everything I do.

The NIAA has a fairly extensive drug and alcohol policy. Do you see steroids as a threat in high school athletics in Nevada? Would drug testing be part of the plan?

Yes, I do see steroids as a threat. I’m not sure how we can monitor it. We could try to do it through education. I don’t know if drug testing is the answer. We are actively trying to put a summit on with 24-Hour Fitness. They (24-Hour Fitness) did one in California and said they would do one in Nevada.

If grants were out there to set up some sort of program, we’d be interested. It would have to be done as a district-to-district thing. We’d love the chance to get something going like that statewide. Four districts are doing it now. People think it’s the greatest thing in the world. Some districts don’t want to be told what to do.

How do schools feel about the new state Final Four concept that was adopted last year where the top two Northern 4A teams advance when the tournament is in Northern Nevada and top three from Vegas and one from Northern Nevada qualify when the tournament is in Vegas?

Ironically, it depends on the sport. You ask basketball coaches and they don’t like it. To me it’s good because you have to win to go. In an eight-team tournament, you can still have two losses and go to state. This is a better concept. Las Vegas has grown and you have to adjust to that. They have twice as many schools and were only getting the same representation. They (Vegas) agreed to some things like alternating state sites.

Would things ever go back to the old way for playoffs?

I don’t see that happening right now. This saves travel money and makes sense. People don’t like change. We should be sending our best teams; teams that are playing their best at the end of the year.

Do you think the Las Vegas schools will eventually go 5A?

Probably. They have enough schools to do it. Size means nothing once you get over 2,000 students. You look at past state championship teams. It’s not the team with the most kids that win.

If it happens, Las Vegas would be 5A and Northern Nevada would be 4A. There wouldn’t be a 4A league where Vegas schools and Northern schools are in the same league. There would be too much travel. Football coaches have told me that they don’t want to lose the North-South state thing. In the old days they used to tell me that if they didn’t play McQueen or Wooster they didn’t know if they had better programs.

Do you see other divisions changing?

Divisions 1, 2 and 3 would most likely stay the same. Every time you realign, you look at what changes need to be made.

California holds a state wrestling tournament that includes all divisions. Do you think that format would work here? Why doesn’t Nevada do that?

If we did what California is doing, it would eliminate a lot of individual championships and the smaller schools would never win anything. (The schools) would be opposed to it. The bigger schools wouldn’t like it either, because they wouldn’t want to lose to a lower-classification team or individual. Personally, I would like it.

Do you have any problems with playing this year’s state tournament at a casino (the Orleans)?

First of all, I don’t see it as a casino (Orleans Hotel). It’s adjacent to a casino. It’s a different building, parking is different and there is a different entrance. There are a lot of schools that are sponsored by casinos. To me, it’s not a major issue.

This year in 3A soccer, you had two Northern Nevada schools playing each other for the title in Las Vegas. Can or could the NIAA make contingency plans for an alternate title-game sight when that happens?

You can’t look ahead like that. If you had just one game it could be done. If you don’t know who is going to be in the finals, you can’t just say let’s stop it and play it (in Northern Nevada). It’s unfortunate (when that happens). Another thing is the facility and set-up. Getting facilities is not that easy. To (have a contingency) you would have to expand the playoffs by a week.

In terms of championships, why not have it half and half. Wouldn’t that help save travel money?

If you look over the years, it’ half and half. There is usually one sport difference between Northern Nevada and Las Vegas. It’s balanced one year to the next.

How has the third referee in basketball helped and is it prudent to spend the extra money when money is tight?

That depends on who you talk to. Everything I’ve seen or read, a three-man crew is better than a two-man crew. How you see the court, how it is divided up and positioning … It keeps older guys in it longer. If I’m a judge, three is better than two.

In 3A this year, three-man crews worked and they paid for two-man crews. They wanted to give 3A schools experience with it.

The NIAA is top-heavy with Division 1A, 2A and 4A schools and very light in 3A schools. Do you see some shuffling within 2A and 3A?

It’s a battle. Some 2A schools will say some of the bigger schools are too big to be with them. You are not going to make everybody happy. Nobody wants to be in with the biggest schools. Everybody wants to be in the middle.

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