Officials from the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association and the Arizona Interscholastic Association have maintained a company line regarding how high school football teams were invited to play in the Sollenberger Classic.
But Bishop Gorman High School officials remain skeptical of what they consider NIAA motives, and the issue could escalate the legal battle.
Donald Campbell, Gorman’s special litigation counsel, has sent public records demands seeking NIAA cellphone records, emails, text messages and written materials concerning the Sollenberger Classic and records directly related to Gorman from Dec. 1 through and inclusive of the date of production.
Gorman has played in three of the past four Sollenberger Classics, but the Gaels were passed over in April for the event despite winning a third straight Class 4A state title last season.
Palo Verde will play Desert Vista of Phoenix, and Moapa Valley will meet Blue Ridge of Lakeside, Ariz., in this year’s Sollenberger Classic on Aug. 18.
Gorman’s exclusion comes as the school is locked in ongoing discussions with the NIAA about its future within the association.
Charles Schmidt, associate executive director of the AIA, said Thursday that the NIAA and AIA collaborated on discussions and that Gorman’s situation with the NIAA had nothing to do with being passed over.
“I’m going to flat-out, categorically deny there’s any political motivation with how teams are selected,” Schmidt said.
Campbell doesn’t buy it.
“We know that is not true,” he said. “We have a significant body of evidence that suggests that that is absolutely false, and at some point, I’m sure people will be placed under oath.
“I’m not going to showcase what we believe are the facts, but we are very confident that the way the Sollenberger Classic was addressed was anything but fair and impartial.”
The notices of public records demands sent to various NIAA officials requested a response by Thursday, but Campbell said after close of business hours Thursday that additional time had been granted.
“I expect they’ll start producing documents in very short order,” he said. “I expect to be getting them in days, not weeks.”
NIAA legal counsel Paul Anderson said: “In order to obtain records from telephone companies, it takes additional time. He’s been gracious enough to provide that.”
The first two years of the Sollenberger Classic, in 2006 and 2007, featured only Arizona teams, and there is currently no formal contractual agreement that the games should automatically include the defending Nevada state champion.
Moapa Valley has not won the state title in the year prior to either of its invitations.
Gorman lost in its first two appearances in Sollenberger Classic, in 2008 and 2010. The Gaels beat Chaparral of Scottsdale, Ariz., 42-22 last season at the University of Phoenix Stadium in a game that was televised nationally on Fox Sports Net.
“I’m not going to get into Gorman’s position on this at this time,” Campbell said. “This is a legal matter that we’re pursuing, and I don’t think it would be appropriate.”
Schmidt expressed disappointment that a game designed to honor the memory of Arizona sports historian Barry Sollenberger and provide student-athletes with a chance to play on a national stage has become a source of controversy.
“We’re trying to create a game to honor Barry’s memory, and to try and make this like there was some political agenda is absolutely ridiculous,” Schmidt said.
An NIAA public/private school committee meeting was held Wednesday at South Point, but Gorman refused to participate based largely on the committee’s composition.
Contact reporter Tristan Aird at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @tristanaird.In-depth high school sports coverage