Sports Column: A radical, but impossible, solution for Nevada

Saturday, October 13, 2007

I'm going to go ahead and throw this out there and Kelly Bradham, the author of the commentary above, may call me nuts. But I think I may have at least a temporary solution to Nevada's conference problem.

Those of you on the Kansas side of our readership area may have heard about the breakup of the Southwest Conference, the league that Nevada High School is in. After this school year, Webb City, Carthage and Neosho are joining the Central Ozark Conference. For Fort Scott fans, Willard, where the Tigers go to the Four State Classic to open every basketball season, is in that conference.

Nevada and McDonald County have been left out in the cold. The COC's base of schools around the Springfield area would make travel times unacceptable. And Nevada's been turned down for admission by other established leagues, including the Big 8 Conference, which would be the best geographic fit, with schools such as Lamar and Carl Junction.

Now Nevada is looking, along with a few other area schools, at forming a new conference. But even Nevada's superintendent, Craig Noah, said in a Nevada Daily Mail story a week ago that the chances of this conference getting off the ground are only 50-50.

One thing is for certain: Nevada doesn't want to be independent. Football scheduling for 2008 and '09 is taking place. And Nevada had four extra holes to fill in its schedule.

Now, imagine eight extra holes in basketball -- boys and girls. And baseball. And softball. And so on.

What makes scheduling difficult for an independent school is that, with the exception of football district games, no one has to play you. You can ask them. But they can say no.

And because of conference commitments, your basketball games probably are going to be on odd nights. When Caney Valley (Kan.) was independent a few years ago, its basketball teams found themselves playing on a lot of Mondays and Thursdays.

So what's the solution? If Nevada can't find a league, expect it to ask the Missouri State High School Activities Association to find a conference to put it in. But don't expect other members of that conference to be happy to be "forced" to take in Nevada. That was a factor in the breakup of the Big 13 many years ago, after the MSHSAA assigned three schools to what was the Big 10.

The Kansas State High School Activities Association has a rule that states that when the KSHSAA is asked to place a team in a league, none of them can leave that league for three years. That's because leagues used to break up after a year or two rather than accept the new school. It happened to my alma mater, Garden City, in the late 1960s after the KSHSAA put it, Dodge City and Liberal into a league with Manhattan and Junction City. That league broke up almost immediately.

But here's my plan…and this is where you're going to say I'm nuts.

Nevada in the Southeast Kansas League.

Nevada would have a built-in rivalry with Fort Scott. And a lot of the road trips it would have to take are not much longer to current SWC trips to Webb City, Carthage, Neosho and McDonald County, which is 97 miles south of Nevada.

Nevada to Iola is 60 miles. Chanute is 79 miles. Labette County is only 98 miles away and Nevada to Coffeyville is 126 miles, which isn't much farther -- and probably in a straighter line -- than Nevada to Ozark (114 miles) or Sedalia (113 miles).

And schools like Coffeyville would probably much rather go 126 miles to Nevada than go to Tulsa, Springfield or Springdale, Ark., as it has had to do in the past.

Not all SEK schools are required to play each other in football, so Nevada wouldn't have to go to Coffeyville or Independence unless it wanted to. And if Nevada joined the SEK, the Kansas schools would never have to schedule a non-league game basketball game ever again.

I haven't heard of any rule that would prohibit a league that straddles a state line. In its last few years of existence, Herndon, the smallest high school in Kansas at the time, was invited to play for Nebraska's state six-man football championship because Kansas doesn't sanction that version of the game. Two years before Herndon closed, it made it to Nebraska's state final, although it lost.

So, why not?

Well, there are many reasons this wouldn't work. Each state has different regulations. Missouri schools can have more practices before the season begins and can play more games.

Softball is a fall sport in Missouri, so this wouldn't solve Nevada's problem for that sport.

If Nevada joined, the SEK would have to change its basketball schedule again. The Kansas schools can play only 20 regular-season games and admitting Nevada would mean that there would be 18 league games. That means none of the Kansas schools could play in a mid-season tournament.

So while these things make full membership status for Nevada in the SEK impossible, perhaps a sort of associate member status would work. Nevada and the SEK schools could agree to help each other as much as practical. Nevada could fill holes in future schedules with Fort Scott and Parsons, (each of which have agreed to play Nevada in football in 2008 and 2009), Pittsburg and Columbus, for example. And Pittsburg wouldn't have to be forced to play Andover, as it will be the next two football seasons.

Of course, this plan will never come to light as there are many complications caused by the state line. But anything is better than what Nevada faces in the next few years unless a good conference fit can be found.

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