Published Monday, March 31, 2014 | 5:30 p.m.
Updated Monday, March 31, 2014 | 7:13 p.m.
John Foss experienced the plight of overmatched high schools competing athletically in Division 1, Nevada’s highest classification, firsthand last year in his first season as the football coach at Sierra Vista.
A handful of the Mountain Lions’ opponents boasted rosters of more than 70 players while they barely found enough kids to keep any semblance of a healthy bench.
“Some schools fill two buses worth of players for a junior-varsity game,” Foss said. “We couldn’t even fill the team.”
Help could be on the way for Sierra Vista and up to three other programs next school year, as the divisional landscape of Southern Nevada high school sports is poised to undergo a change.
The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association reviewed its realignment rubric and confirmed plans to send as many as four programs down to the lower-classification Division 1-A at a board meeting Monday at Aliante Station.
“I think it’s going to work out a lot better,” said Donnie Nelson, assistant director of the NIAA. “There’s a real basis behind it, and I think it’s going to make for better competition.”
Two schools from each region in Southern Nevada, the Sunrise and the Sunset, could move down depending on their performances in spring sports. Schools currently eligible for consideration other than Sierra Vista are the Sunset’s Spring Valley and Desert Oasis and the Sunrise’s Del Sol and Rancho.
In addition to competitiveness, Nelson also lauded the switch’s potential to create more symmetry with possibly 20 teams in the Division 1 to 17 teams in the Division 1-A as opposed to the current setup of 24 and 13, respectively.
But the change may not be that drastic if two or more of the aforementioned five programs finish off the current school year with successful seasons. The rubric does not allow schools with more than 15 points in a single year to re-classify.
Points are awarded for everything from reaching the playoffs, good for one point, to winning a state championship, which registers 40 points.
“It helps pull down the schools that are justified to go down,” Nelson said. “We know there are a couple schools that don’t belong, so that’s what the rubric helps.”
Del Sol, for example, currently has no points in 2013-14, meaning the Dragons are the safest bet to join the Division 1-A.
Spring Valley has nine points. Rancho and Desert Oasis are teetering with 11 points, so as little as a first-round playoff victory would keep either school in the higher division.
Sierra Vista has the second lowest with six points, meaning one of its spring teams must at least win a regional semifinal competition to erase the possibility of moving out of Division 1.
“The baseball team is very good, so from my understanding, we might be staying up,” Foss said. “I know the baseball program definitely wants to stay up. I can understand that, but just speaking for my program, I think it would be more fair to go down. I think it would be good for us to go down and would help us while we’re trying to build.”
Schools like Sierra Vista and Spring Valley have enrollments of nearly 1,000 students less than some of the schools they play against in sports.
“You take it for granted when you’re at a school with all the resources,” Foss said. “Our administration here is great, but some of our programs are struggling because we don’t have the numbers or the parental support of other schools. I wouldn’t use it as an excuse, but we fit more with some of the smaller schools in that regard.”
Teams are also eligible to move up from the Division 1-A to the Division 1 if their performance substantiates it. Two lower-level schools, Faith Lutheran and Boulder City, have scored enough points to move up in the last two years.
Neither the Crusaders nor the Eagles will make the leap, though. They were two of four schools — Moapa Valley and Virgin Valley were the others — given the luxury of choosing their division when the NIAA implemented the rubric in 2012.
“They were promised the decision,” Nelson said. “They both exercised their right to stay in the Division 1-A.”
The rest of the decisions will have to wait until after spring sports season. Nothing changed in that regard Monday, as the plans to shift the four schools came together in an early-March meeting of the realignment committee.
The board just needed to approve the recommendation, which took all of a few minutes.
“It was simple and painless,” Nelson said.