Gaels get reason for Sollenberger snub

The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association and its counterpart in Arizona have books full of rules and regulations.

And nowhere in any of them is it spelled out which teams from each state will be invited to play in the Sollenberger Classic football game.

It’s largely because the selection criteria don’t seem to be written anywhere, and that’s exactly the way the Arizona Interscholastic Association likes it.

“There isn’t a formal process,” AIA chief operating officer Chuck Schmidt told the NIAA’s Board of Control on Tuesday. “This is Barry (Sollenberger). Barry was not about (guidelines). Barry was about dialoguing.”

Reigning big-school champion Bishop Gorman wasn’t invited to play in this year’s Classic, passed up for Sunset Region runner-up Palo Verde.

It upset the Gaels, who thought they would be playing in their third straight preseason game against an Arizona school and fourth in the five-year history of the event.

Instead, the Panthers will play Desert Vista (Ariz.) on Aug. 18 in Glendale, Ariz.

Schmidt said he and NIAA executive director Eddie Bonine had discussions in December about which school to invite.

“It wasn’t about not having anyone,” Schmidt said. “It was about who would be playing. It was about who would be a competitive opponent and create a good game.”

Schmidt seemed to indicate that Desert Vista lost more than half of its team to graduation and might not have been a competitive matchup for a Gorman squad that, despite losing a handful of Division I athletes, should again be very good.

“We wanted to ensure that the Arizona team that was being invited had the opportunity to compete on the field,” Schmidt said.

Moapa Valley will face Blue Ridge (Ariz.) in the small-school game, also on Aug. 18.

After learning Gorman was upset with not being selected, the AIA offered the Gaels a compromise – adding a third game to the classic.

Gorman, though, declined.

“We didn’t want to be treated differently than any other member school of the NIAA,” Gorman president John Kilduff said. “We still question why Palo Verde was chosen, and I don’t think we’ve gotten an answer to that, but we’ve moved on.”

It’ll be Palo Verde’s first trip to the Classic.

“I’ve got kids who have never traveled outside of Las Vegas,” said Palo Verde principal Dan Phillips, a member of the board of control. “It’s a shame that a program that has lost four games in three years is deemed not worthy by the community.”

Going forward, there’s no guarantee a Nevada state champion will be invited to play in the game. The process still will be informal.

“We’ve had a run of a couple state champions,” Schmidt said. “We looked at in the beginning, this was not about state champions. We were looking at games that would promote the opportunity to develop the relationship between Nevada and Arizona, giving other teams an opportunity.”

Contact reporter Bartt Davis at or 702-387-5230.

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