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Ban lifted on high school football, other full-contact sports

Updated February 17, 2021 - 8:15 pm

Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Wednesday the ban on full-contact high school sports has been lifted, clearing the way for football to be played in the state this spring.

The decision on whether to play football – and all sports in the fall season — is in the hands of the individual school districts. Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association executive director Bart Thompson said the Clark County School District is the only one of 17 school districts in the state that has opted out of the fall season.

The fall sports season is scheduled to begin March 4 and last six weeks. CCSD Superintendent Jesus Jara has said the district will not allow sports to be played by its member schools until students are back in the classroom.

“We’ve had a lot of finger pointing between the school board, the governor and Jara,” said Anna Binder, a parent who has six children in the district. “The governor has made it very clear it’s in the hands of Jara. We’re thankful (Sisolak) did something amazing for the kids today, and we’re thankful the finger pointing is over.”

The ban was also lifted from basketball and wrestling, but they are part of the winter season recently canceled by the NIAA.

Football practice could begin as early as Thursday for Moapa Valley, the only CCSD school that will be allowed to play since it has been in a hybrid learning model since the beginning of the school year, and non-CCSD schools in Southern Nevada. Whether the season will begin on schedule for those schools remains to be determined.

Sisolak cited a falling trend in the COVID-19 positivity rate and total number of cases as the reason for dropping the ban. The NIAA is finalizing its guidelines for returning to play, but coaches, staff and athletes will be tested at least once a week.

“This is great stuff for these kids,” SLAM! Nevada football coach Mike Cofer said. “These young men and women need something. I’m very sorry it took this long and that wrestling and basketball were unable to have their seasons, but I feel very fortunate now that the state of Nevada can join the majority in playing football.”

Neither Liberty coach Rich Muraco nor Centennial coach Dustin Forshee is optimistic the governor’s decision will have any impact on the district’s football teams.

Muraco pointed out students that home-schooled or attended virtual high schools were allowed to play for their zoned school before the pandemic and doesn’t understand in-person learning being a prerequisite to sports.

“Why do we have to be back in the building?” Muraco asked. “In some ways, it’s safer to not be in the building because we can isolate more. That was my stance early on, and it’s still my belief. Kids are going to school. They’re being graded, so what’s the difference?”

Some parents have expressed optimism that the CCSD could feel the pressure of being the only county in the state that doesn’t allow its students to compete in fall sports.

Organizations such as Let Them Play Nevada have helped plan protests, made phone calls and sent emails to the school board and Jara, hoping to sway their opinions or at least get an item on the agenda to consider.

Stacy Maxwell, a first grade teacher in the CCSD, said she received a response to an email from school board president Linda Cavazos that said the decision is entirely Jara’s. Maxwell’s son, Andrew, a senior tennis and baseball player at Silverado, said he hopes to have some semblance of a senior year, but “it’s really tough to keep your hopes up.”

“I would hope this puts some pressure on Jara, considering football is their biggest hoop to jump through because of how much of a contact sport that is,” Andrew Maxwell said. “With how much power the governor has, it should at least put some pressure on Jara.”

Let Them Play Nevada co-founder Dennis Goughnour and Binder think Jara should take quick action.

“Get on the phone with Bart Thompson and say we’re opting back in,” Goughnour said. “Let the kids have a senior night. Let them hear their band one more time. Let them score one more touchdown.”

Contact Jason Orts at jorts@reviewjournal.com. Follow @SportsWithOrts on Twitter.

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