Steve Puterski

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March 8, 2013
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RIDING THE PINE: Make no mistake, high school sports is big business

In the past week two high schools made headlines for serious upgrades to their football facilities.

In Las Vegas, national powerhouse Bishop Gorman opened the doors to its new 41,324-square-foot athletic complex. That's right, a complex that dwarfs most universities and probably every high school in the country.

Dubbed the Fertitta Athletic Training Center (the Fertitta's are Gorman alums and own the UFC), the eye-popping facility boasts an 11,470-square-foot weight room, a four-lane 60-yard track, a 90-seat film room, a hydrotherapy pool and ice bath to name a few amenities, according to a Las Vegas Sun story and photo slideshow.

Oh, each football locker provides the athlete with a digitally-locked safe.

In the Dallas suburb of Allen, the school district unveiled its newest gem in the football-crazed state, a $60 million, 18,000-seat football stadium. Yep, $60 million for high school football, not to mention 44 teachers and 40 support staff positions were cut in Allen due to a $4.5 million budget shortfall, according to the Huffington Post.

The stadium, though, was blessed by voters approving a $119 million bond three years ago and in October they agreed to increase property taxes by $0.13.

The Allen stadium includes a state-of-the-art weight room for all athletes, private boxes and an impressive press box. The school, according to the Post, has sold 8,000 season tickets and nearly every game is sold out.

Locally, Churchill County High School raised $20,000 to add weights and equipment to its weight room. These schools, although Gorman will not release the cost of its center, are playing with a blank check.

Gorman has no defense to counter schools who want them out as a member of the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association. Those schools are justified, while Gorman officials made a pathetic attempt to justify their center with a counter argument that Arbor View built a 3,500-square-foot weight room and Del Sol's new weight room totals 4,500-square-feet.

Funny how Gorman just promised more transparency to the NIAA of programs and now won't disclose the dollar amount of its two-story mansion dedicated to its athletes.

Let's be clear, kids deserve the best training tools, but a school like Gorman is taking it to a new level. Their alums have very deep pockets and the means to provide legal nightmares for the NIAA.

But the question is, what do state titles mean when the aim and focus is to be a national power? Sure a state banner looks great hanging from the rafters, but when is slaughtering local schools by 50 points every week an accomplishment?

Gorman has driven for the national name brand for the past several years and is now consistently ranked in the top 25 of nearly every major football, basketball and baseball poll.

While millions don't see the relevance of national high school polls, the schools, its alumni and TV networks do. It's a way to sell the program, build an additional revenue stream and criss-cross the country to play the best.

Or fly across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii for one game, as Gorman will do this season.

Can the other Vegas schools be blamed for threatening to forfeit their games against Gorman to save the embarrassment? Of course not, why should they? What do their players get out of it? How do the Gorman players improve?

It's surprising the athletes of these programs haven't made a push to play a prep schedule. Much better competition and more scouts and for the school a bigger payday.

At least cries of illegal recruiting will wash away because the mute walls of the athletic complex will always have the perfect pitch for the next top athlete. Gorman coaches, alumni, administrators or players don't need to say a word.

When is the chase for national glory and TV money from ESPN for Gorman enough? After one "national title?" Two? How about 20?

If so dominant, why not take the next step in high school sports evolution and play with the prep powers? The prep level garners more attention, college scouts and more money.

What's a state title compared to a possible national title?

Stepping up to the prep level would also benefit Gorman's reputation among those who cannot afford to send their kids to the Catholic institution. Gorman is the best in Nevada, and playing on that level would have everyone in Nevada cheering for the home team to show sports in Nevada can compete nationally.

I mean, who wouldn't want to play at Gorman? The athletes are not to be blamed, it's the adults who want this, which is fine, just step up to the elite level and go for those national championships.

- Steve Puterski is the sports editor at the Lahontan Valley News and can be contacted at

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The Record Courier Updated Aug 16, 2012 03:06PM Published Mar 8, 2013 03:44PM Copyright 2013 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.