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California schools remain eligible for Nevada championships

STEVE YINGLING and JAMES BALL

Trophy suppliers stand to benefit the most from a Senate committee’s amended bill that will guarantee Nevada high school champions if California-based schools win future Silver State titles.

On Friday, the Human Resources and Facilities Committee amended Senate Bill 489, allowing California high schools to continue competing for Nevada state titles but empowering the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association – the governing body of the state’s high school athletics – to create a special trophy for the top Nevada-based school.

Lake Tahoe high schools South Tahoe, Tahoe-Truckee and North Tahoe are three of the five California schools that compete in Nevada leagues.

When asked if he thought this was a victory for Truckee, TTHS principal Dennis LeBlanc said, “I think so,” but was cautious to point out this is a fight which usually resurfaces the next year.

“This is a neverending thing,” LeBlanc said, “and with realignment, we have to be careful it doesn’t work out to where they get a two-thirds and boot us out.”

The NIAA recently realigned leagues, with several schools which supported Truckee being moved from 3A to 2A.

Reaction to the Senate Committee amendment at STHS was one of relief.

“I’m glad that it’s over, but it’s hard to celebrate something that I thought was frivolous from the beginning. I’m glad that things for all intents and purposes are remaining status quo,” said STHS Athletic Director Frank Kovac. “The whole process reaffirmed in my mind that Californians and Nevadans are good neighbors.”

NIAA Executive Director Jerry Hughes declined to talk about the amended bill on Monday, preferring to review the changes before discussing them.

Oddly, if the bill becomes a law, the third-place school in a Nevada 3A state tournament could become the “Nevada” champion. Both Truckee and North Tahoe, which have dominated football, cross country running and soccer during the 1990s, compete at the 3A level.

“If North Tahoe and Truckee played for the state championship and the third-place team received a trophy that said ‘Nevada state champion,’ that would be embarrassing,” STHS football/girls basketball coach Tim Jaureguito said. “It doesn’t make any difference, the team that wins knows who the true champion is and who is not. They are kind of watering down their championship name.”

Kovac concurred:

“It would be kind of pointless for a team from Nevada to get that trophy. It’s not what Knutson wanted, but it’s what he got,” he said.

This is the fourth-straight denial of Knutson’s movement, the previous ones coming in the form of votes within the league by member schools.

Knutson had vowed to take his fight to the state level if he didn’t get his way among the schools.

Truckee and North Tahoe joined the NIAA in the early 1980s, when both schools were invited to join to help fill out Nevada schools’ schedules.

The one victory for Nevada teams was a decision to mandate that all championship games be played in Nevada.

That’s not a problem, LeBlanc said.

“Basically what’s occurred is, nothing has changed for us,” he said. “Our state games are never played in Truckee, anyway.”

Most state tournaments are either in Reno (basketball and golf) or Las Vegas (football, track, cross-country).

The only title meets in Truckee are skiing events, and the TTHS ski teams are not members of the NIAA. Rather, they compete in the California/Nevada Interscholastic Ski Federation, which is independent of NIAA.

The vote still must face full rejection in the senate this week, but Las Vegas senator Ray Rawson said he was confident nothing would change the status of the vote.

The Senate must vote on the amended bill by next Monday.


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