Friday, May 29, 2009 | 4:53 p.m.
The high school football season will be extended by one game for 20 Southern Nevadan schools next fall.
A $25,000 donation by the upstart United Football League to the Clark County School District will cover fees for officials, transportation and security to support bringing back the extra contest.
District officials decided to trim the football season from 10 games to nine this winter, eliminating the first week of contests referred to as ‘Hall of Fame’ games. The cut, along with a reduction of games in other sports, was part of an effort to save money in the state’s rough economic climate.
But the professional league, which will begin its inaugural season in October with Las Vegas as one of its franchises, came to the rescue.
"When we heard that one of the games was going to be canceled for economic reasons, we felt it was very important to step up and have a role in helping the district out," said UFL Commissioner Michael Huyghue. "We know an additional game can have a huge importance in helping these athletes gain attention from recruiting and they are also a special part of the community. It is unfortunate the economy has hurt high school sports and we just want to be a positive part of the community and this was one way we could help."
Ray Mathis, the district’s executive director of athletics, said his office sent notices to schools informing them the Hall of Fame games were back on.
The district is looking for the first 20 schools to submit paperwork and a check to schedule games. Home teams pay $500 and visiting teams pay $250, with the money funding the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association Hall of Fame.
Once the 20 schools are set, the district will make the schedule. Mathis said the donation by the football league is a one-time deal.
The process to help save the extra football game began thanks to a brainstorming session between Huyghue and Daren Libonati, the executive director of the Thomas & Mack Center.
"I spent the last year and half with the commissioner and was able to assist the high school football programs with their 10th game by introducing them to the UFL," Libonati said. "Michael had a great amount of compassion to help. He stepped up and has agreed to assist. I think it’s a great gesture. We’ve seen so many sports programs come into our town and disappear. Now, the UFL has come and really made a positive impact."
Huyghue will make an official announcement about the UFL's role in restoring the Hall of Fame games at a press conference on June 11 with Las Vegas' coach Jim Fassel. The Las Vegas squad will hold private workouts for prospective players on June 13.
Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected].