Plans and schedules are in place to play high school sports, now it’s a matter of the state giving the OK.
The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association met Tuesday and Wednesday via video conference to update where it stands on resuming high school sports. High school sports have been shut down since March 14 due to state COVID-19 protocols.
Basketball and wrestling are still on the no-play list, along with football. If they are allowed, practices could start in early January.
NIAA executive director Bart Thompson said the state health advisers are not expected to address high school sports until next week at the soonest.
Thompson said schools need to know the status of sports soon so they can start arranging transportation, officials can be confirmed and schedules finalized.
He said transportation is a big issue due to social distancing requirements that limit the number of students allowed on a bus.
The Washoe County School District voted on Tuesday night to return to the hybrid learning model on Jan. 19. The board did not address returning to practice/conditioning. Thompson said the NIAA does not have any rules about practice or conditioning nor about students being in classes before they practice.
Clark County voted last week to not have any winter sports this school year.
Thompson said if Gov. Steve Sisolak allows basketball and wrestling to return, those sports could begin practice Jan. 4.
The NIAA has a plan in place to have winter sports begin play Jan. 19, with a six-week season, followed by fall sports in March-April, then spring sports in April-May.
“It would be easy to get 10 days of practice in and they could play games (Jan. 19),” Thompson said.
The board members also spoke about how sports are not just a physical outlet for students, but also provide emotional and mental stability for them.
Thompson said he has been in weekly contact with high school sports associations in Utah and Idaho, where sports are being allowed, to find out how they are coping with COVID-19 protocols.
He said if sports return to Nevada, there will likely be no spectators allowed, at least in the more populated counties. Other counties could allow fans, depending on their restrictions.
He said all adults associated with athletics would need to be tested for COVID.
“For right now, we’re still in a holding pattern, hoping to hear fairly soon if those sports can be allowed to be contested and practiced,” Thompson said of basketball and wrestling. “We are planning full-speed ahead for those seasons with the schools that are in session.”
The board also said the Northern 3A could change this school year, depending o the status of South Tahoe and Truckee, which fall under California guidelines. And North Tahoe would also be affected by California protocols.
In other board action:
The board approved extending the contract of Thompson by one month, so his official retirement date will be July 31.
The extension is so he can fulfill obligations to the national high school governing body.
The board also authorized looking into having current assistant director Donnie Nelson become the interim executive director after Thompson retires.
Nelson has worked for the NIAA for 24 years. Before Thompson was hired in 2015, and after previous director Eddie Bonine left to take the same job in Louisiana, Nelson was part of NIAA staff that ran the association for about five months.
The board waived the need for a masters degree, saying 15 years in a high school athletic association can fulfill that requirement.
Nelson said he looks forward to being the interim executive director, saying he loves working for the NIAA. The move will save some money for the NIAA, which is facing a big deficit of about $100,000, due to no high school sports tournaments being held so far.
He will get a stipend for taking on the duties, and the board recommended a part-time person take over Nelson’s current duties.
The NIAA will further discuss and vote on the move at its spring meeting in March or April.
Realignment: The board voted to postpone the next realignment to the 2023-24 school year. The NIAA staff is concerned the rubric points would not accurately reflect which teams should be in each class.
Officials: Face coverings will be required for all officials in all sports.
Jim Krajewski covers high school and youth sports for the Reno Gazette Journal. Follow him on Twitter @RGJPreps. Support his work by subscribing to RGJ.com right here.