Parent sues NIAA over soccer ruling

Representatives of the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association will be in federal court in Las Vegas on Monday to face allegations the organization has violated Title IX by recognizing the fall as its sole girls soccer season.

The NIAA Board of Control voted three times to move all girls soccer to the fall, effective in the coming school year. The switch would align the Class 4A seasons in Southern and Northern Nevada, allowing a single state champion to be determined. Northern schools have played during the fall and Southern schools during the winter.

Even though the Clark County School District decided to play an independent schedule this winter to avoid moving its season, the father of a Green Valley High School student alleges the NIAA is in violation of Title IX by failing to sanction the winter season.

Title IX guarantees equal treatment between male and female students.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Johnson, father of Emma Johnson, filed an emergency action against the NIAA in U.S. District Court on July 31.

“We’re asking for the season to remain in the winter and sanctioned in the same manner it’s been sanctioned in the past,” Eric Johnson said.

Johnson originally sued the NIAA and CCSD in April, aiming to stop the Southern Nevada season from being moved to the fall. He dropped the CCSD from his latest action because of the district’s decision to keep the season in the winter and hire a Title IX consultant.

But Johnson is unhappy that the NIAA’s fall-only sanctioning will fail to officially recognize a Southern Nevada champion.

“Part of Title IX and part of girls sports is that they have recognition for their achievements similar to what is available for boys,” he said.

NIAA executive director Eddie Bonine defended the organization’s decision, saying it’s not up to the NIAA to determine which sports schools choose to offer.

Bonine said the original decision to move girls soccer to the fall was made years ago and the CCSD had ample opportunity to add a girls sport or make whatever moves it thought was necessary to remain in Title IX compliance.

“We wanted to give Clark County the opportunity to prepare for the change,” Bonine said. “They’ve had 31/2 years to do so and failed to do so.”

Johnson claims the NIAA’s decision not to sanction the winter season is a punitive measure against the CCSD for failing to fall in line with the rest of the state. Bonine said the NIAA should not be the target of Johnson’s complaint.

“I don’t think this fight is with us,” Bonine said. “This should be a Clark County issue. They have acknowledged that and tried to rectify that. In the meantime we’re spending thousands of dollars (in legal fees) for one dad, one kid.

“We’ve not had one single complaint from any other parent, coach or administrator.”

In fact, Bonine said he has begun to field complaints from Northern Nevada parents, who allege that not crowning a single state champion would be a Title IX violation.

Johnson counters that claim by suggesting Northern Nevada schools could move their season to the winter if they want a unified state champion.

“I’m not going to say it wouldn’t be cold,” he said.

Bonine called the idea of playing an outdoor sport in the winter in the Reno area “ludicrous.”

“They’d play in 20 degrees with a wind chill in the teens,” he said. “That’s ridiculous.”

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