High School Sports

Budget deficits may make high schools look at athletics for cuts

Impending budget cuts are forcing area high schools to develop new proposals to save money — the most dramatic of which would eliminate postseason sports events for at least two years.

The City League, Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League and the newly formed Central Kansas League have each made proposals that they think will help athletic programs economically. None of the proposals is on the Kansas State High School Activities Association's agenda for its board of directors meeting next week.

The Central Kansas League's superintendents came up with the idea of dropping state championships for two years.

"The worst idea I've ever heard of," said Joe Auer, Heights High School's boys basketball coach. "It's a terrible idea. But that's from somebody looking at it through the eyes of wanting kids to play....

"Extracurricular activities are an important part of the education system, a priceless part."

The CKL also proposed reducing the number of competitions by 20 percent, including academic events such as music, debate, speech/forensic competition, scholar's bowl and spirit competition in addition to sports.

Football, for example, would have its number of regular season games cut from nine to seven.

"That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard in my life," said Weston Schartz, Northwest High School's football coach. "It's absurd to cut the games from nine to seven. We work from November through August to get ready, and you're going to let us play seven games? It's a disservice to the kids."

Events are how schools and the KSHSAA get their revenue — schools from regular-season competition, KSHSAA from postseason events.

"It doesn't seem like it's the most logical place to start in terms of cuts," said Bill Faflick, athletic director for the City League. "In terms of having the public sit up and take notice, it would be something that's very visible."

Hesston superintendent Darrel Kellerman, whose school is part of the CKL, admits cutting postseason events is drastic, but the rest of the CKL's proposal is logical.

"We've got some serious economic issues, and it looks like we're doing more in the academic setting, and we get fewer complaints about making cuts there than we do in the athletics," Kellerman said.

Individual schools could cut back on the number of events, but Kellerman said it was important to go to the KSHSAA for across-the-board changes.

"Our league felt like we couldn't do anything in isolation," Kellerman said."... The risk of doing it is we cut a particular program and you have a neighboring school... then parents are sometimes more committed to programs, and they'll pack up and go down to Newton or Moundridge."

The proposals from the AV-CTL and City League focused more on revenue sharing. The AV-CTL's proposal asked for the host school in postseason play to receive 50 percent of the gate receipts. Currently, 30 percent of gate receipts go to the host school, 70 percent to the KSHSAA.

The AV-CTL also suggested that the KSHSAA operate profit-free for two years.

KSHSAA executive director Gary Musselman said that wouldn't be a problem considering the association projects a $325,000 loss this fiscal year, partially because of slumping attendance at postseason basketball tournaments.

In the last fiscal year, the KSHSAA had about $200,000 in profit.

The City League also proposed the KSHSAA give a percentage of gate receipts to the visiting school, using a graduated scale over three years.

"Some of our initial dialogue was pretty radical," said Marc Haught, the athletic director for Maize, which is in the AV-CTL. "We said, 'Now that we've done that, what is impacting kids?' So we looked at other things, like KSHSAA working profit-free for a year or two."

Andover Central High boys basketball coach Jesse Herrmann knows that athletics will take a hit.

"But I'd hate to see a majority of cuts come from athletics," he said."... Athletics are, for a lot of kids, the reason they go to school, whether it's right or wrong. It's a great at-risk program."

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