Las Vegas Sun

November 24, 2017

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Sun Editorial:

The easy way out

Proposal to change high school playoffs sends terrible message

High school sports officials are set on Tuesday to discuss a separate playoff system for private schools. The proposal is born out of Bishop Gorman High School’s incredible athletic success in recent years.

Gorman has won four of the past five state football championships for large schools. Its baseball team has won six consecutive state titles. The boys basketball team has won three of the past four championships. The girls basketball team has won four of the past seven state titles.

As Sun Sports Editor Ray Brewer recently pointed out, some schools consider the state semifinals the real title game if they’re going to face Gorman because they figure they can’t beat the Gaels.

The board of the Nevada Interscholastic Athletics Association, high school sports’ governing body in the state, will discuss a proposal Tuesday that would put the dozen or so private schools with sports programs in their own playoff bracket. That would mean Gorman would be paired with smaller schools that often provide little competition.

Proponents of changing the playoff system say it’s unfair for public schools to compete because they don’t have resources or the facilities to match. They also complain that they can’t recruit students from around the valley as Gorman can.

But that’s a thin excuse. It really seems to come down to the fact that in recent years, the public schools haven’t been able to beat Gorman.

Instead of finding ways to improve and rising to the level of competition, the proponents of such a plan would rather avoid the competition and let Gorman play in a league of its own. That’s an odd thought in the world of sports, where coaches encourage athletes to achieve excellence and often preach about the value of playing against top-notch competition.

Changing the playoffs is a short-sighted “fix.”

Sports teams go in cycles. Consider Gorman’s football program. It was among the state’s elite teams in the 1970s and early ’80s. But after winning the state championship in 1983, the program went dry, waiting 24 years before winning another state title.

This wouldn’t be an issue if Gorman weren’t at the top of a cycle in which it has had incredible success in the big three sports — football, basketball and baseball. Although Gorman has built a strong reputation in both academics and athletics since its founding in 1954, its athletic program hasn’t always been dominant.

Regarding the critics’ complaints, certainly, a private school may be able to muster more resources, but that doesn’t mean it will win. In fact, public schools have put together impressive programs over the years.

In the 1990s, Green Valley High School’s baseball team won six consecutive state titles. From 2000-08, Las Vegas High and Reno’s McQueen High, both public schools, each won three large-school state football titles. And California’s Truckee High School, which plays in the NIAA, has won three consecutive small-school state football titles. Its football team has won six titles since 2001.

Where’s the call to send Truckee packing?

Yes, it’s true that private schools can also open their doors to students from anywhere, but what about the public high schools with magnet programs? Should they be sent to a private school playoff as well?

The bottom line is that this proposal to separate private and public schools in the playoffs punishes schools that have good athletic programs. It would tarnish any future state title, as winning teams couldn’t claim to be the state’s best.

That’s not fair for anyone, and it’s certainly not the hallmark of good sportsmanship, an attribute high school athletics is supposed to teach. It would send a terrible message to Nevada’s youth: If you can’t beat ’em, take your ball and go home.


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