STEPHEN SYLVANIE / SPECIAL TO THE SUN
Wednesday, May 28, 2014 | 2 a.m.
In a day and age where everyone gets a participation medal, high school sports in the Las Vegas area will take its mediocrity to a new and embarrassing level over the next two years.
New NIAA league alignments
Division I League assignments
|Sunset Southwest||Sunset Northwest|
|Palo Verde||Arbor View|
|Sunrise Southeast||Sunrise Northeast|
|Green Valley||Canyon Springs|
Division I-A League assignments
|Sunset League||Sunrise League|
|Faith Lutheran||Boulder City|
|Add: Sierra Vista||Sunrise Mountain|
|Add: Spring Valley||Add: Del Sol|
Under realignment terms released Monday by the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association, three of Southern Nevada’s four leagues in the large-school Division I classification will have just five schools. Four of those schools — yes, 80 percent — will make the playoffs. The other league has six schools.
Football teams with one victory could qualify for the postseason, painfully watering down the achievement of reaching the playoffs. It makes the regular season less meaningful and sheds a negative light on our brand of competition.
So, for the first round of the playoffs, just four teams out of 21 team won’t be included. That’s a waste of resources better used elsewhere. It will produce lopsided results at the end of the season when the level of play should be advanced.
One solution would be changing the playoff structure to take two teams from each league. While that would make regionals just two rounds, it would feature the best of the best and put value on the regular season. It would also allow for another week of regular season games out of league.
Sierra Vista and Spring Valley from the Sunset Region, and Del Sol from the Sunrise Region were demoted to Division I-A based on a points structure in which schools earn points for where they finish in the standings and how far they advance in the playoffs. They will compete against small-town schools such as Virgin Valley or schools in challenging economic areas such as Western.
Although I’ve long championed realignment and repeatedly reported on teams thriving in the lower league, that classification is now bursting at the seams with 16 teams. Some shouldn’t be there, but it appears nobody — with the exception of Clark and Desert Pines basketball — is eager to leave.
Faith Lutheran, despite winning multiple championships, used its option to stay down. The school plans to move up eventually, so I’m OK with it taking another two years to get further established.
Other schools need to take a look in the mirror with how they build their programs. Is there something that can be done differently? Keeping players eligible, playing a more challenging schedule, attending a camp or getting new uniforms can help create a winning attitude.
Use being in Division I-A as a way to build confidence and generate interest in your teams. But don’t accept that as your fate. Don’t use it as a crutch and simply go through the motions.
Las Vegas shouldn’t settle for producing mediocre athletes and inadequate competition. It should be about being the best and getting a state championship medal — not a participation medal.
More takes on the new leagues
• Goodbye Las Vegas, Green Valley: Realignment makes it difficult for rivalries to be sustained with this round of changes destroying what was quickly developing into the state’s most entertaining rivalry — Green Valley vs. Las Vegas. That was especially true in football, where the stands were packed on both sides last season for a back-and-forth battle to determine the league champion. Although they could be scheduled to met in the regular season, the intensity won’t be the same. In two years, after both schools find other schools to dislike, they’ll shuffle the deck again.
• Same for Gorman, Centennial: The identical argument could be made for Bishop Gorman and Centennial, which developed the state’s most competitive rivalry of the past two years. Centennial was moved to the Northwest League with realignment, breaking what could have been great regular season games in football and basketball the next two years. They won’t face each other in the regular season because Clark County School District schools refuse to play private-school Gorman until league play.
• Hello Palo Verde, Gorman: While the realignment gods took away a few good rivalries, the shakeup will produce at least one good result: Gorman-Palo Verde. The schools, which are a few miles apart in Summerlin, don’t hide their dislike for each other. The football playoff matchup is always the game of the year, meaning we’re guaranteed to get the game each season because both teams are in the Southwest League together. Memo to schedule makers: This needs to be the last game of the regular season.
• Sierra Vista baseball: Officials need to consider a sport-by-sport realignment, which would keep a quality programs such as Sierra Vista baseball from dominating the competition in the lower classification. Just like Clark and Desert Pines in basketball, everyone could be playing for second behind Sierra Vista in baseball.