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October 25, 2014

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high school football:

Sollenberger Classic official explains Gorman’s exclusion from 2012 game

The snub had nothing to do with NIAA feud, but rather looking for the most competitive matchup

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Sam Morris

New Bishop Gorman football helmets are seen on the ground as the Gaels warm up for their game against the Chaparral Firebirds at the Sollenberger Classic on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2011, at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.

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The Bishop Gorman High football team’s exclusion from this year’s Sollenberger Classic was because organizers wanted a match-up that would yield the most competitive game, said Chuck Schmidt, the associate executive director from the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

And, having three-time defending state champion and nationally respected Gorman involved would likely have resulted in an unbalanced affair. Gorman has a 43-3 record since Tony Sanchez became coach in 2009.

Schmidt spoke Tuesday morning at the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association Board of Control meeting at the Orleans to explain the selection process for the annual mid-August game featuring Nevada and Arizona schools. In past seasons, the defending Nevada large-school champ — Gorman — represented the Silver State at the Arizona game. But, with no formal criteria, organizers decided to go a different direction when they announced the participants in April.

That direction — inviting Palo Verde High to face defending Arizona champ Desert Vista — caused an uproar in Las Vegas. Gorman supporters argued the snub was politically charged because of the school’s ongoing feud with the Nevada association in regards to its membership status.

Schmidt said the decision was the result of discussions with officials with the Arizona and Nevada associations, and made in the best interest of having an evenly matched game.

“The dialogue centered around what would be the best game,” he told the board. “We wanted to insure the Arizona team invited had the chance to compete on the field.”

Gorman had represented Nevada the past two seasons, losing two years ago 24-17 to Hamilton High and rallying last year from a seven-point halftime deficit for a 42-22 victory against Scottsdale’s Chaparral High.

Like Gorman, both Hamilton and Chaparral were preseason ranked teams. This year, Gorman is ranked No. 11 by Maxpreps.com while Desert Vista isn’t in the top 25. Still, Desert Vista’s coach went on record in April to the Arizona Republic saying how he would have preferred playing Gorman.

“Do you want to show up and play a game where there is really no chance of winning,” Schmidt said.

Organizers for the event, which also includes a small-school level game between Moapa Valley of Overton and Arizona’s Blue Ridge, have also discussed not inviting Nevada teams in future seasons, Schmidt said.

That’s mostly because the debate about whether or not Gorman should play isn’t in the spirit of game. Played at the Arizona Cardinals stadium, the game is designed to celebrate high school sports and Arizona athletes, not to bring controversy, Schmidt said. It’s named after Barry Sollenberger, a respected Arizona high school sports historian who died in 2005.

“Our focus has been to create a lasting memory for the students who participate, and more importantly, to honor one of our friends,” Schmidt said.

Palo Verde principal Dan Phillips, who is part of the NIAA’s Board, told Schmidt how being included in the game is giving his school’s players motivation to train in the offseason. For most, it will be the highlight of their athletic career. He also said some have never been outside Las Vegas and are looking forward to traveling — and, more important, representing Nevada. Palo Verde is a perennial local power with a 59-6 record since 2007, and was the state runner-up in 2008 when it was the last local team to beat Gorman.

“It is a shame a team that lost four games in the last three years is deemed not worthy by this community,” Phillips said of his team.

Schmidt said the event was willing to expand to three games this year to accommodate Gorman and extended a late invitation for the school to be included. He said Gorman passed on the option.

“It wasn’t about not having anyone,” Schmidt reiterated to media afterward. “It was about who to invite. It was about who would be a competitive opponent and provide a good game.”

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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  1. Have you ever seen Palo Verde's offense? That will be one horrible 3ours for television viewers and anyone who chooses to attend this game. I would prefer to see Liberty High School play the Sollenberger Classic; they have a better offense and don't have their Principal sitting on the NIAA Board of Directors. The choice of Palo Verde smacks of favoritism.

  2. Hey Daniel: It was covered by both of the town's daily newspapers, talked about on sports radio and made television news. I have no problem with you ripping me and thank you for keeping me honest. Today, I disagree.

  3. And now that I think of it the AIA said after it was made public that they had nothing to do with who was sent. That they were given a list by the NIAA and the list did not include Gorman.

    And I agree with Ray, it was covered every even Larry Coker on radio. The fact that most of us agreed it should have been Liberty.

  4. High schools who are allowed to recruit will find themselves increasingly on the outside, IMO. The playing field isn't level. Other schools are stuck with whoever from the student body shows up. Gorman "expresses interest" - a euphemism for recruiting.

  5. Daniel would you say there's outrage over Gorman dominating sports? Because if you apply the same standard then apparently Gorman dominating has not really bothered people because there was only one guy from the public who attended the NIAA meeting. So clearly since the same news media that reported on Palo being chosen over Gorman, Liberty, Reed etc.. reported about the NIAA's want to remove Gorman from post season play then there's no uproar for either issue per you.

  6. I'm so fired up for the fall. Can't wait: TeamSG1 and tuasdad going back and forth on the message boards!!!

  7. What's B.S. about all of this is that Arizona schools have open enrollment and players can attend schools even without living in their "zone". The high school teams in AZ are stacked much deeper than NV teams. As it was pointed out in this story, Gorman has only won 1 time since being invited to this event....1 time! Now that they've won a game, they're excluded?

    ....and the "we extended Gorman an invitation to add a 3rd game" was pure B.S......I'm glad Gorman rejected that offer. They only did that to try and save face because Palo Verde is not the 2nd best team in Nevada....not by a long shot. So, it exposed the favoritism for Palo because of their Principal's seat on the board of the NIAA. This reeks of politics and they're trying to hide it behind "we're doing what's best for the schools and competition".....laughable.

    Meanwhile, BG will continue to practice and work hard and show these schools what's up.

  8. Gorman will not be treated as a 2nd class team....so I'm glad they turned down the "consolation" game. @Grayghost makes a great point....how is playing Brophy more "even" than playing Desert Vista....it's all B.S.

    Go Gaels!