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F1 race forces shift in dates for football state title games

Formula One’s highly anticipated Las Vegas Grand Prix has generated international attention for the city’s growing claim as a global sports hub.

But it has also created plenty of headaches, including for Nevada high school football.

Due to concerns about hotel availability and room rates for traveling teams, the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association has moved four state championship dates scheduled for the weekend of the race to Tuesday, Nov. 21.

The Class 5A Division I, 5A Division II, 4A and 2A state title games are now scheduled for Nov. 21 in Southern Nevada, with Allegiant Stadium as the tentative host. The Las Vegas Grand Prix is scheduled for Nov. 16-18, with the race taking place Saturday, Nov. 18, at 10 p.m. on the Strip.

“Hotel rooms were still terribly limited and cost-prohibitive on Nov. 19, so that ruled out Nov. 20 as a playing day because of the start times of games,” NIAA associate director Bartt Davis said in an email. “With consideration given to student class time and Thanksgiving, the Tuesday (Nov. 21) date made the most sense and fit the best for all parties.”

The NIAA and Raiders do not have a contract in place to play at Allegiant Stadium, but Davis said one will be presented soon.

“The Raiders have been extremely gracious and generous to us through the whole process and since before they opened up Allegiant Stadium to us,” Davis said. “It is our understanding we should see a contract soon.”

Class 5A Division III, 3A and 1A will play their state title games at UNR’s Mackay Stadium on Nov. 18. It is the North’s turn to host the games in the usual rotation.

The 3A and 1A title games could be played in Southern Nevada if two Southern teams reach the final, and 2A could be played in Reno if two Northern teams reach the final.

Class 5A Division I and 4A are made up of only schools from Southern Nevada.

At the NIAA Board of Control meetings last week at Palace Station, the board was given an update regarding the football state championship games and the decision to move the games because of the Formula One race.

“I want to make it very clear that this isn’t because of Allegiant Stadium, it was because of Formula One and the race event that was scheduled on top of what is now our traditional state championship weekend,” NIAA executive director Donnie Nelson said at the meeting.

In the two years Allegiant Stadium has hosted state title games, the NIAA has played four games on one day, on a Thursday in 2021 and a Monday in 2022, with the first game kicking off at 9 a.m. and the final game beginning at 7 p.m.

On the NIAA website, there are no times listed for the state title games or venue. Nelson said at the meeting there aren’t “any indications” that they won’t be at Allegiant Stadium.

“(The Raiders) don’t own the stadium, they are also tenants, and for a tenant to allow another tenant to be there, it’s a chain reaction, and sometimes it takes a very long time,” Nelson said. “We intend to be at Allegiant. We always want an answer as soon as possible, but many times it’s not possible.”

Davis said the NIAA will try to host all the games at one site, but said there are “no guarantees” that all would be at Allegiant Stadium if there are five or six state title games.

In 2021, with five state championship games in the South, the NIAA moved the 1A title game to Bishop Gorman. Last year, Carson City hosted the 5A title game, won 70-6 by Gorman, since it was the North’s turn to host that game.

After an eventful realignment process, two state championship games were added when the state’s top classification, 5A, was split into three divisions.

Liberty coach Rich Muraco said his only concern for 5A Division I teams would be the long break between the state semifinals, scheduled for Nov. 3, and the state title game, which he said would mirror something like a college bowl game.

“I don’t care so much about playing on a Tuesday,” Muraco said. “The harder part for us in 5A Division I is we’re going to have 17 days, if we’re lucky to be in that position, between the semifinal and state championship game. That is going to be difficult to manage. We’ve never had to do that or have experienced that. It could be a good thing or not, I don’t know.”

Foothill coach Vernon Brown said aside from adjusting the practice schedule, it isn’t a “big deal” to play on a Tuesday with a state championship on the line.

“The state championship, you’ll play any day,” Brown said. “If you’re not ready to play regardless of the date, you shouldn’t be there. … At that point, who cares? You’re in a state championship game trying to win it all. The time and date, it doesn’t matter at all.”

Contact Alex Wright at awright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlexWright1028 on X.

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