Friday, June 18, 2010

GPSD suspends 6 high school sports

GREENVILLE – The stadium lights were turned off for six Greenville School District sports Thursday during a public budget hearing at Coleman Middle School.
Soccer, slow-pitch softball, baseball, tennis, golf and power-lifting were suspended by the school board, as a result of a $163,000 decrease in the 2010-11 athletic budget.
The funds for district athletics took a steep plunge from $517,000 in 2009-10 to $354,000 for the upcoming term.
However, Superintendent Dr. Harvey Franklin, explained that the sports could go on, if sponsors or booster clubs step to the plate.
“These are things any business has to do to get its business in order,” Franklin said during the meeting. “A struggling time for the nation economy means a struggling time for the state economy, and a struggling time for a state economy means a struggling time for a local economy.
“We’re not saying we don’t want these sports, we’re saying we need more local support.”
Greenville sports not listed were basketball, football, track, cross country and fast-pitch softball.
Coaches of the affected sports will stay on as teachers, Franklin said. Certified teachers will work games as ticket takers, cash handlers and security.
Basketball and football produces the bulk of athletic funds, Franklin said. Track and cross country must remain because of federal guidelines.
“Track is a sport where we have girls Title IX compliance,” he explained. “And they’re state champions as well.”
Franklin, who stated some parents of affected athletes have already come to him with ideas to raise money for the sports, said he hopes the community now understands the position the district is in, and reacts appropriately.
“(The suspension) is a wake up call for our community to advocate for these sports and support these sports,” said the superintendent. “It’s an opportunity for us to now redefine how we’re going to go about supporting all sports.”
Athletics, which was one of the many departments bitten by a $4 million estimated shortfall, will need a huge boost from boosters and the community to survive now, and in the future, Franklin said.
“As we heard earlier, there are more cuts down the road,” he said. “More cuts mean more cuts in other areas, and (sports) may be another area where we have to cut it.”
During the meeting, attended by a crowd of 75, several audience members – including Rep. John Hines and former Coleman High and Mississippi Valley coach Davis Weathersby – gave their view on the board’s decision to axe six sports.
“When I first started working at Coleman, we didn’t receive any money from the (district). Everyone worked to together to get money for athletic programs,” said Weathersby, a retired long-time football coach and athletic director.
“It’s too important to cut these sports out,” he continued. “There could be a Serena Williams or a Tiger Woods out there. I think to just cut sports out would be bad for students.”
Said Hines, “I played on the last championship football team this city had (in 1982). I can’t see closing the door on baseball. There are so many opportunities there for our kids.
“We’re closing the door on kids who say ‘ “I’m not big enough for football, not athletic enough for basketball and not fast enough for track. Some (kids) need sports to keep them off the street. ‘ “
Hines also brought up the possibility of finding coaches who will work the position voluntarily.
“That’s always an option,” Franklin said.

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