Northern Nevada is on the brink of once again becoming relevant in the statewide athletics conversation, particularly football.
In late March, the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association Board of Control will vote on a realignment that would create a 5A classification starting in the 2018-19 school year.
Southern Nevada has grown so drastically that 25 schools currently compete at the 4A level. Only 12 compete at the level in Northern Nevada, 11 if you discount Wooster which plays football in the 3A North.
The potential move would divide the schools in Las Vegas based on their success the past six seasons. Football would be evaluated separately, meaning schools could play at the 5A level in football and 4A in other sports, or vice versa.
The best part for Northern Nevada? The schools would vote whether they want to stay at the 4A level or move up to 5A.
One word, or actually, name, should determine the 4A North’s vote: Gorman.
The Gaels would undoubtedly opt to play at the 5A level, leaving the 4A North with the choice not to play the private school power any longer. That was not a typo. The Northern Nevada schools that have been belittled, embarrassed and ran over by Gorman (most notably Reed football) can simply opt to longer be a footnote.
I get that pride is a factor. Nobody wants to own the perception of hiding or ducking from competition. However, this is not a time to be proud. It’s a time to be logical.
In December, NIAA Executive Director Bart Thompson said Bishop Gorman is not going anywhere. The Gaels and their eight straight state football titles as well as their five straight state boys basketball titles will continue to compete for NIAA state titles.
Bishop Gorman has taken advantage of “the system.” Now, the 4A North can do the same.
This is not to say state championship trophies in major sports are suddenly going to migrate to Northern Nevada for good. Behind Gorman are several top-tier programs in several sports across the Las Vegas area: Liberty football, Clark boys basketball, Centennial girls basketball, Green Valley wrestling, Palo Verde softball, to name a few.
In all likelihood, not all of those schools are going to bump up to 5A or remain at 4A unilaterally.
The 4A North will still have to do something special, regardless or sport, to end the season with a win. However, state titles would once again be practical.
Schools, particularly in football and basketball, will once again be able to say they aspire to win a state title. And it won’t be a joke.
With the current athletic landscape in Northern Nevada, the regional tournament is becoming the pinnacle of achievement. The state tournament has been relegated to a “we’re just glad to be here” exhibition.
This move would change that.
Obviously, not all sports have become Vegas-dominant. Spanish Springs and Reed have won the last two state softball titles. Galena and Carson have won the last two boys soccer state titles. And Spanish Springs wrestling is becoming one of the strongest programs in the state.
The result of a reclassification would only give those teams an easier a path. Is that so detrimental?
It would certainly be a fair trade if it meant giving sports like football, basketball and baseball hope – something they’ve lost.
It’s been at least seven years since a large-school Northern Nevada team played for a state title on the diamond, let alone won it. Football, we don’t need to go there. Basketball, for boys and girls, is beginning to tell a similar story.
The talent gap between Las Vegas and Reno will only continue to grow. This is Northern Nevada’s chance to bridge that gap.
Isn’t it ironic that the second year Reed football will be without Ernie Howren (realignment would start in 2018-19 school year), the Raiders will have their most realistic shot at winning a state title?
Now is not the time to be pound your chest, 4A North. Now is the time to use the resources given to you. Bishop Gorman has done exactly that. That’s worked out pretty well for the Gaels.
Work smarter. Not harder.
Of course, all will be for not if the NIAA BOC shoots down the realignment next month.
Nathan can be reached via email at email@example.com. His weekly column, ‘Shoup Shots,’ was named the best column in the state of Nevada (community division) by the Nevada Press Association. It runs in the hard copy of the Sparks Tribune every Tuesday morning.