Friday, July 11, 2008

With Schools Strapped For Cash, Sports Are First To Go

An interesting series of articles by Andy Staples ran on Sports Illustrated.com today.

The first detailed the Mount Vernon athletics department, which is in danger of having all sports for the 2008-2009 seasons canceled due to lack of funding.
Mount Vernon, a boys basketball powerhouse, defeated Bishop Maginn in the 2007 title game, but the Griffins got their revenge in a thrilling 54-52 victory in 2008 in the Class AA state semifinals.

The athletics budget at Mount Vernon is $950,000 for the '08-'09 school year. If the school can't raise at least $300,000 by August, it looks like the kids in Mount Vernon won't be playing sports, at least not for the school district.

Here's a press release from the City, with Mount Vernon Mayor Clinton Young calling on Mount Vernon alum, and current NBA star Ben Gordon, to help out.

Mount Vernon Mayor Clinton Young and Ben Gordon (left) pose with Mount Vernon student athletes. The duo is spearheading a fundraising drive to save the athetlic program at Mount Vernon High for the '08'-09 school year.

115 employees, including many teachers, also may lose their jobs due to the budget cuts. I haven't read anything about the art and music programs at the school being slashed -- likely because they're already long gone.

Staples also explains how rising fuel costs are keeping teams closer to home, meaning some summer league teams are eschewing cross-country travel.

It's an interesting question. I watched the Connie Mack World Series qualifier at Geer Field last week, which drew teams from all around the country, including the Florida Legends and the Dallas Giants. The Florida team even had a big tour bus that they took to the field each morning.
So, for some teams, the cost isn't an issue yet -- and with high-caliber, affluent teams like some I saw in the Connie Mack tourney, it looks like these teams will just bear the burden and pay for it.

The Suburban Council just restructured into two divisions, partly to cut down on fuel costs.
Here is the new breakdown:
North Division: Ballston Spa, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, Niskayuna, Saratoga Springs, Shaker and Shenendehowa.
South Division: Averill Park, Bethlehem, Colonie, Columbia, Mohonasen and Guilderland.

(I would switch Mohon and Shaker, but that's beside the point).

The Foothils Council, a league we do not cover here at The Record, is an interesting case.
On the north side, Queensbury, South High, Glens Falls and Hudson Falls are all fairly close together and make for some good rivalry games. In the southern part of the conference, Scotia, Broadalbin-Perth, Johnstown and Gloversville make for an equally nice grouping.
But imagine driving from Broadalbin to Queensbury in the snow after a 7:30 p.m. Friday night basketball game. After the modified and JV games both went to overtime.


---
What do you think?

As we saw with the Suburban Council restructuring, administrators are already taking gas prices and long bus trips into account. How would you switch the local sports Councils to make better geographic and financial sense?
(For example, isn't it just criminal that Mechanicville and Stillwater don't play each other regularly?)

And do you think a local school could ever lose all of its sports programs for an entire year? Could this happen to another place in the Capital Region with a high property tax problem? Imagine Schenectady High without a basketball team.
Perhaps in a few years you won't have to -- those gyms just might be dark.

-- Will Montgomery

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