The athletic dominance of Bishop Gorman High School over the past 15 years has, from time to time, triggered the usual amount of hand-wringing and pettiness from adults who should know better. It was only seven years ago that the Nevada Scholastic Activities Association considered a proposal that would have prevented the parochial school from competing for state championships.
On Friday, the folly of such thinking was on full display during the jubilant celebration on the gridiron after Liberty High School came back from a 14-point halftime deficit to knock off Gorman, 30-24, in overtime to advance to the state football semifinals. It was the first time the Gaels had lost to an in-state foe in 11 years. During that span, Gorman won 10 straight state titles and was three times named the best high school football team in the nation by various publications.
A similar celebration occurred in 2013, when the Coronado High School baseball team swept Bishop Gorman in the state finals to end the school’s run of seven consecutive state championships.
“Bishop Gorman set the standard for excellence,” Liberty football coach Rich Muraco said. “If you’re a competitor, you want to rise to that standard.”
Mr. Muraco nailed it. Athletic competition teaches young men and women a variety of life lessons, including the importance of hard work, cooperation, perseverance and commitment — of learning to meet high standards, to cope with adversity, deal with defeat and to accept, rather than retreat, from challenges. What message would it have sent had the adults determined that Bishop Gorman was just too strong for the rest of Nevada’s high schools and thus needed to be prohibited from participating in state playoffs?
Just ask those Liberty football players pumping their fists and raising their helmets in joy on Friday following their hard-fought victory. Talk to the Coronado baseball players who derailed the mighty Gaels on the diamond six years ago. These are lifetime memories that would only have been diminished had the Gorman naysayers prevailed.
Yes, Bishop Gorman, as a private school, has certain built-in advantages, particularly because it has become a national brand and isn’t constrained by district zoning policies when it comes to attracting local talent. (Although, let’s not kid ourselves: Recruiting is rampant within the public schools, as well.) But so what? Teaching students — athletes or not — the value of setting high expectations and of pushing themselves to improve and strive for success is of far greater importance than wallowing in mediocrity in order to achieve some illusory version of fairness.
Congratulations to the Liberty Patriots and Mr. Muraco. And congratulations to Bishop Gorman for setting a standard of athletic excellence to which other local schools now aspire.