School refuses to join 'Gorman bashing' panel


A committee asked to help decide Bishop Gorman's fate in the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association will have one missing component when it meets this morning: Bishop Gorman.

The school confirmed through legal counsel Tuesday that it will not fill two seats on the NIAA's public school/private school subcommittee, which is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. at South Point casino.

The committee will discuss a perceived competitive imbalance between Gorman, a private school, and other NIAA member schools.

Also on the agenda are items to develop a more transparent process concerning private school tuition assistance and suggestions for changes to the NIAA's private school compliance form.

"We are not participating in a process that obviously has a predictable outcome," said Donald Campbell, Gorman's special litigation counsel.

Gorman was to have two seats on the 16-member committee, selected by NIAA executive director Eddie Bonine. The committee includes representatives from Faith Lutheran and Reno's Bishop Manogue, both private schools, and four principals from Clark County School District schools.

Bonine was asked by the NIAA's Board of Control in March to form a committee to address Gorman, which has had ultra-successful runs in football, boys basketball and baseball in recent years.

Board member Erin Cranor asked both sides to submit in writing their acceptance of the makeup of the committee.

"(The) NIAA 'committee' was formulated and selected not in accordance with the directive of the Board of Control, but rather unilaterally by Mr. Bonine to achieve a single objective - the exclusion of Bishop Gorman High School from participating in interscholastic sports programs," Campbell said.

"Mr. Bonine's antipathy toward Bishop Gorman student-athletes apparently knows no boundaries. Completely unrestrained by the NIAA Board of Control, Mr. Bonine has shown he will use whatever means at his disposal, legal or illegal, to deprive Gorman of its right and entitlement to be treated fairly and impartially."

Communication between Bonine and Gorman president John Kilduff received by the Review-Journal indicates that Gorman officials have had issues with the makeup of the committee from the start.

In a March 26 letter to Bonine, Kilduff wrote: "With some of the members of this panel having been particularly vocal about their opinion of Bishop Gorman, we feel this 'panel' lacks balance and that due to its sheer size will be, at best, unwieldy. It will not be productive to simply have a 'Gorman-bashing' session and feel it will be better to focus on real solutions to the issue of public/private schools as the written agenda item indicated."

On March 28, Bonine replied: "The individuals whom I have selected for the committee each represent a certain constituency/stakeholder which must have representation on this committee to ensure fair treatment to all member schools and student-athletes in the state of Nevada. ... Providing BGHS with two members on the committee is more than fair in my opinion."

NIAA legal counsel Paul Anderson backed that up Tuesday.

"We've done what we can do to get them to come to the table," Anderson said. "They've refused to provide us with the names of their people. They feel that the NIAA has been biased against Gorman."

Further upsetting Gorman was the school not being invited to participate in the Sollenberger Classic football game in Arizona in August.

Gorman was Nevada's representative in the game the past two years.

In regard to that, Campbell filed a Nevada Public Records Act request to obtain telephone and cellphone records and email exchanges by NIAA staff.

Gorman has long been the target of criticism among public school backers in Southern Nevada.

Until Faith Lutheran was moved to Class 4A in 2008, Gorman was the lone private school in the big-school classification in Southern Nevada, and Gorman's domination in the major boys sports has added more fuel to the fire for those who believe Gorman can attract the athletes it wants.

Unlike Clark County School District schools, Gorman isn't subject to zoning rules to make up its student body.

There have been allegations in the public and among the district's schools that Gorman recruits athletes to its school, but Bonine confirmed Tuesday that nothing has ever been submitted to his office in writing nor has it been proved that Gorman has done anything illegal.

The groundswell grew larger after Gorman routed Northern Nevada power Reed 72-28 in the Class 4A football state title game in December.

Reno-area athletic administrators asked Washoe County coordinator of athletics Ken Cass to send a letter to the NIAA to explore options that could be taken to ensure a greater competitive balance.

"I wrote it right after the state championship (football) game, just asking for it to be put on the agenda," Cass said. "Gorman is off-the-charts good. It doesn't seem like anyone can compete with them."

Before the meeting in March, Bonine sent a letter to Kilduff, asking Gorman to accept "affiliate status" with the NIAA.

The status doesn't actually exist within the NIAA's rules or the Nevada Administrative Code, but it is similar to the agreement Findlay Prep's boys basketball team has with the NIAA, enabling it to play other Nevada schools but not compete for state, region or league titles.

Gorman officials declined.

Review-Journal publisher Bob Brown offered to mediate a discussion between Gorman and the NIAA to reach an agreement.

"I would just like to see the two sides come together," Brown said. "I don't know everything that has gone on. I'm not privy to all of the issues involved. I did this with the best of intentions. My hope is that cooler heads prevail."

The Review-Journal is a co-title sponsor of the NIAA. NIAA assistant director Donnie Nelson said the Review-Journal gives the organization $75,000 and an unspecified amount of general in-kind advertising each year.

Brown said Gorman agreed to his offer, but the NIAA did not.

"The time frame that was suggested didn't work. It just didn't pan out," Bonine said. "And to be honest, if we had met, we still would have had the committee meeting."

No final decisions can be made at the committee meeting, but there is expected to be an action item on the Board of Control's June meeting agenda regarding Gorman.

"We're just looking for suggestions, hopefully clear the air, let individuals say what they want to say," Bonine said. "It's not a Gorman-bashing by any means. I'm hoping we get some positive information out of it and can build from there."

Contact reporter Bartt Davis at bdavis@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5230.

 

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