Mar 20, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
We just had a big weekend in high school sports, with state basketball championships decided in Glens Falls and Troy. This on the heels of other state titles, handed out over a month’s span, everything from wrestling and ice hockey to boys swimming, indoor track, girls gymnastics, even rifle and skiing.
All of which makes the following piece of information that much more jarring.
MSG Varsity first reported that New York State Public High School Athletic Association has asked its 11 member sections to consider all sorts of cost-cutting measure. At the top of the list was the possibility of curtailing, or even putting a two-year moratorium on, state championships.
Yes, that’s right. No football teams dreaming of triumph in the Carrier Dome late in November. No hoops teams wanting to make the trips to Glens Falls. No spring festival of baseball in the Southern Tier, or no chance for lacrosse powers in Long Island and Central New York to measure up.
Beyond that, you have the memories students, coaches, parents and communities gain from these trips. Whether they win it all or not, those memories are indelible and priceless.
Ah yes, price. As it always is, the cost of these events is at the heart of this issue.
The suggestion to NYSPHSAA executive director Nina Van Erk arose from Section XI, which covers Suffolk County on Long Island. To be fair, few state tournaments are conducted there, and the travel expenses for those schools are larger than they are upstate.
And hovering over school districts throughout New York is the 2 percent state property tax cap, which curtails a crucial source of funding and has forced districts to implement all sorts of cuts into their budgets, eliminating teacher positions, or schools, or some sports, or all three.
At some point, though, something must be done to take on the crippling mentality that, in a time of economic struggle, cutbacks are the only viable choice, which could produce a whole litany of unintended consequences.
Nor is it a coincidence that students suffer most from these cuts. Whether with larger classrooms, fewer textbooks, or a system that places increased emphasis on testing rather than learning, they’re already suffering the aftershocks of budget crises.
So here’s a bright idea – let’s pile on. Let’s take away the opportunities some of these students have to achieve something great, because it happens to be sports and it happens to involve travel and, well, those are expendable, as are any extracurricular activity because it might cost the almighty taxpayer a few more dollars per year.
Critics will counter with the familiar argument that education should be a school district’s primary concern, nothing else. Well, of course it is, but the vast majority of students that take part in sports, music or other clubs get good grades, so where’s the harm to education?
Though state championships are not a long-time part of the narrative of high school sports in the Empire State, they have now been around for more than a generation, with football the latest convert in 1993, though Long Island schools still are holdouts.
Thus, most boys and girls that go into scholastic sports with any serious commitment carry a state or Federation title as an ultimate goal. Imagine taking away that incentive, not because the kids did anything wrong, but because adults put budgetary matters over all other considerations.
Then you don’t have scenes such as the one in 2006, when Auburn, a last-second sectional playoff entrant, made it all the way to the state championship, won in overtime over Monroe-Woodbury in the Dome. At least 10,000 fans wearing maroon showed up, a modest city ignited by an improbable run to the top.
Or you don’t have Cazenovia, a modest community, celebrating, in a single 2010-11 school year, three different state championships – field hockey in the fall, ice hockey in the winter, lacrosse in the spring – feeling the sort of pride that’s impossible to measure or calculate.
So to the powers-that-be in the NYSPHSAA, be creative. Actively seek out more corporate sponsors that can underwrite tournament expenses and travel costs for the teams involved. Encourage volunteer work on these tournaments in the host communities that leads to more savings.
Just do not touch what has become the touchstone of high school sports from Buffalo to Bay Shore. The dream of claiming a state championship drives so many, kids and adults like. Even the consideration of snatching away the dream is something that makes all who care about this so much cringe.