High school sports flap reaches Nevada Senate
Tahoe-Truckee and North Tahoe high school sports stepped into a new arena last week – the Nevada Legislature.
Representatives from Truckee, North Tahoe and three other California schools attended the committee review of Bill 489 Friday. The bill would block California schools, specifically North Tahoe, Tahoe-Truckee, Coleville, Needles and South Tahoe high schools, from competing in Nevada championships but would allow them to participate in regular season games.
Representing North Tahoe at the review were principal Don Beno, athletic director Ed Turner, cross country and track coach Warren Mills and students Michelle Prado and Jonny Wojcik. Truckee representatives, who were unavailable for comment during spring break, also attended.
“It was an educational experience,” said Mills. “I thought the California schools made a respectable presentation. We said why we were here and what we were doing, but it was hard to read what the Senate felt about it.”
Moapa Valley High School football coach, Jeff Knutson, who is leading the SB489 charge, told the Senate Human Resources and Facilities Committee that limiting championship contention to Nevada schools is only fair.
“My problem is if you’re the best team in Nevada, you should be Nevada state champion and not be better than somebody from another state,” said Knutson.
Early this year, Knutson led a campaign to remove California schools from the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association. Initially Knutson said he wanted all five California schools expelled from the NIAA; however, the issue was eventually voted on among members of the 3A division. Knutson failed to gain the support he needed to oust the Californians and turned to the Legislature as a final resort.
The committee didn’t take any action, though committee chairman Ray Rawson predicted a compromise is probably in the works, with the wishes of Nevadans taking precedence. Mills said the action needs to be taken by tomorrow or the bill will die in committee.
State lawmakers suggested several compromises. One option would be a dual system where California schools would compete for a conference title within their leagues. Another possible solution would be awarding the state title to the highest finishing Nevada school within a sports league, regardless of whether the school made the final or not.
However, Mills said he was not sure how serious the suggestions were.
“I don’t know if they (the Senate) want to make a decision,” he said. “They were throwing out a few ideas.”
Proponents of the bill said the cost of traveling to the California schools can be high, the travel time takes athletes out of school and in some cases the California schools were uncooperative with scheduling.
Opponents said the bill was unnecessarily divisive.
“It’s really kind of taking away our participation in the league by taking away our ability to win,” said Wojcik. “All our history lies with Nevada.”
North Tahoe and Truckee high schools have been members of the NIAA since they were invited to join in 1982. In that time, the schools have won 46 out of about 740 team titles contested in that time. Since then, there have been three attempts to remove California schools from state competition. The NIAA rejected all three.
Sen. Rawson, R – Las Vegas, suggested establishing a dual award in the form of a conference or regional championship trophy that would accompany a Nevada state crown in the event of a bi-state championship game.
“That may fit the criteria of allowing the best team to walk off and know they won the championship,” said Rawson. “It would also allow Nevada teams to walk away with the Nevada state championship.
Rawson also suggested requiring postseason games to be held in Nevada in response to Knutson’s complaint about California venues hosting them.
Others said the issue seems only to affect mid-size schools that don’t like the football competition offered by the Californians.
Sen Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, said he hasn’t heard any complaints from 1A or 4A schools, while Sen. Bernice Matthews, D-Sparks, noted the overwhelming concern seems to involve Truckee’s almost perennial presence in the state 3A football championship.
Mills agreed. Of the four Nevadans present to speak for the bill, two were football coaches, he noted. Dave Hart coaches the Fernley High School and hasn’t beaten Truckee in 19 years, and Knutson’s Moapa Valley lost to Truckee in last year’s football semifinal. Truckee has won four football titles this decade. Mills’ cross country team has won 20 titles since 1982.
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