Published Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 12:01 am / Updated at 2:26 pm
NSAA votes against allowing Benson, Holdrege to opt up

LINCOLN — Omaha Benson, which has the top-ranked boys and girls basketball teams in the state this season, could win both Class A state titles next month and not be able to defend them next season.

Benson and Holdrege were turned down Wednesday by the Nebraska School Activities Association board in their requests to compete in Class A and Class B, respectively, next season for all sports but football.

Enrollment shifts will cause the pair to drop into Class B and Class C-1, respectively, for football in the 2014 and 2015 seasons and in volleyball and basketball in the 2014-15 school year.

The NSAA board, after hearing staff reports that allowing schools to opt up would create competitive inequities, voted initially 6-2 to deny Holdrege's request (a later reconsideration vote was 7-0, with an abstention), then 7-1 to deny Benson's.

Those votes came minutes after the board amended a recently adopted approved ruling concerning opting up.

“We definitely are disappointed and are exploring our options,” Benson Principal Anita Harkins-Baldwin said. “Definitely we would like the opportunity to give our input for what the ruling does to Benson beyond athletics.”

She said Benson would contact the NSAA on Thursday to begin the appeals process.

Benson would be the first high school in the Omaha Public Schools since now-closed Technical in 1974-75 not to be included in Class A.

Last October, the NSAA board voted for an approved ruling that made formal a 2007 policy decision that let schools opt up a class in all sports but football. Previously, schools could ask to opt up in football as well.

Lincoln East and Columbus, during the past 20 years, were allowed to remain in Class A although their enrollments had them in Class B.

In January and again Wednesday, staff members told the board that allowing opt-ups would create imbalances in district assignments. Taking a team from Class B and moving it to A, they said, would mean one Class A district in volleyball and basketball would have five teams instead of four and one in track with nine instead of eight.

Consequently, there would be one Class B district a team short in those sports. In volleyball, one district would have only three teams.

However, had Benson and Holdrege been allowed to opt up together, Class A would have 29 teams next season in volleyball and basketball while keeping Class B at 32.

NSAA board member Jerry Bartee, an OPS administrator, voted for the policy but against Benson's denial. He abstained on the reconsideration of Holdrege's denial after first voting against the denial.

Also Wednesday, the board learned that Haymarket Park is not available for the opening round of the Class A baseball tournament in May because Nebraska has a Big Ten game scheduled against Illinois.

No action was taken on possible options, which include moving the first round to Werner Park in Papillion the day before the start of the Class B tournament or use of Sherman Field.

Parkview accepts reprimand

The NSAA closed its eligibility case against Lincoln Parkview on Wednesday after the school waived its right to appeal.

NSAA Executive Director Rhonda Blanford-Green said that in exchange for the NSAA taking no further action, the school will accept a reprimand for violations of undue influence rules by boys basketball coach Garth Glissman and must educate its staff on NSAA bylaws.

The NSAA board voted Wednesday to make Dovydas Burneika and Domas Budrys of Parkview, Justas Grikstas of Norfolk Catholic and Paulius Sakinis of Nebraska City Lourdes ineligible for the entire 2013-14 school year.

“The membership's bylaws were upheld and we continue to be advocates of equitable participation for all students,'' Blanford-Green said.

She said at the board meeting that legal fees stemming from the case, including $30,000 for employment of a hearing officer, totaled more than $70,000 a week ago. And another recent eligibility case, involving Omaha Central basketball player Jarek Coles, racked up between $12,000 and $15,000 in legal fees.

Contact the writer: Stu Pospisil    |   402-444-1041    |  

Stu Pospisil has been The World-Herald's lead writer for high school sports since 1990 and for golf since 1988. He primarily covers football in the fall, basketball and wrestling in the winter and track and field in the spring.

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