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Cheerleading Blueprint Introduced

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — State basketball tournament would feature sanctioned halftime spirit competitions

The answer about how officials plan to convert high school cheerleading from an activity to a sport just became a little clearer.

Administrators with the New Mexico Activities Association presented a preliminary course of action during a board of directors meeting on Wednesday.

New Mexico schools voted overwhelmingly in December to recognize spirit squads as official sports starting in the 2010-11 school year. Doing so draws the NMAA closer to fielding equal numbers of male and female student-athletes for the first time in its history.

The key point of Wednesday’s meeting: Expect competitions at halftime of games played during the 2011 state basketball tournament.

Same, too, for the down time between junior varsity and varsity basketball games.

The plan calls for spirit to be defined as a year-round sport. Its state championship competition would be held in the 39th week of the school year, or late March.

To qualify, teams must compete in at least two (and no more than five) sanctioned meets between November and March. Those meets must have at least four participating schools and be scored by four certified judges.

Teams will also be allowed to travel to one competition more than 300 miles beyond the state border, meaning annual trips to national events in Florida and California are still allowed.

Board president Mike Phipps said the idea of staging a sanctioned event between JV and varsity games is a potential “revenue enhancer,” that could potentially help school districts fund the sport.

He and other board members stressed the need to keep halftime periods during the state tournament to 10 minutes.

“It can’t be like a homecoming halftime at a football game where extra time is required,” NMAA executive director Gary Tripp said. “We can’t have extended halftimes at the state tournament. It has to be done in 10 minutes.”

The board will consider adopting official cheerleading policies in the coming months. Its next scheduled meeting is March 10.

SUPER MARIO: NMAA assistant director Mario Martinez announced his retirement at Wednesday’s meeting. The former football coach and administrator at Fort Sumner has worked in the NMAA offices for the last six years.

He will officially step aside in June.

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wish that day were tomorrow,” Martinez told the board. “After that you can find me on the golf course. So next time I’m on the 16th and (NMAA assistant director) Sally Marquez calls me, I think I’ll push the ‘ignore’ button.”

OH, RATS: The NMAA is doing away with hospitality rooms for this year’s state basketball tournament. The rooms have been a popular gathering spot for coaches and athletic directors during the week-long event.

Marquez cited the ongoing renovation at the Pit as the reason for the one-year hiatus.

She said an alternative would have been to place a tent outside the arena, but UNM officials warned her that rats would probably have eaten the food stored there overnight.

DEADLINE: The association has set a Feb. 12 deadline for students applying for one of 16 NMAA college scholarships. Winners will be announces in March.

SEEDING: The NMAA is considering revamping its postseason seeding and selection process. An advisory referendum was sent out to member schools seeking advice.

One option is to have the NMAA staff pick the teams rather than representatives from each district. Another is to use the final coaches’ poll as part of the football and basketball seeding process.

MERCY: The NMAA may revise its football mercy rule. At question is whether games should be called off once a team builds an insurmountable lead.

The Six-Man mercy rule has games end when a team goes in front by at least 45 points after halftime.

The board of directors is expected to make this an action item at its March meeteing.

ALCOHOL AWARENESS: June is the tentative date for a soft launch of the NMAA’s Life of an Athlete program. The Department of Transportation has given the NMAA a $400,000 grant for a four-year program geared at curbing alcohol abuse among high school athletes.

Approximately $100,000 of the grant is funding an online curriculum linked thru the NMAA’s Web site. In it, students will be required to watch a 40- to 45-minute interactive tutorial on the effects drinking can have on an athlete’s performance.

For now the program is voluntary. NMAA assistant director Robert Zayas wants the board to make it mandatory for all athletes starting with the 2011-12 school year.

He showed the board a portion of an interview he conducted with former Manzano standout athlete Gabe Gurule. Gurule is currently serving an 18-year prison sentence for killing three people in a DWI accident in 2005. The interview will be part of the program shown to student-athletes.

 

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