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Schools of Thought: Reaction to state cuts mixed

February 2, 2009
By Bill Cain, The Leader-Herald

Everyone understands, but nobody seems to like it.

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association's Executive Committee voted to cut athletic schedules across the board. Football teams will play one fewer game. In all other sports with a 20-game or shorter season, teams will be allowed two fewer games. Sports with a 24-game schedule have to cut four.

Everyone understands the need for frugal spending, but this seems to be a quick answer that will have a limited impact on the finances of the member schools.

"I understand it because we're in some tough economic times, but I don't think it will mean that much in financial savings," Gloversville athletic director Mike DeMagistris said. "I wasn't in favor of it and I know Section II voted against it."

The away games that are cut will save the schools money they would have spent on busing, while the home games that are cut will save money on officials.

One positive, Johnstown athletic director Mike Satterlee said, is teams from all school districts, more- and less-affluent, will be playing the same number of games. It will keep the school districts with more money to spend from buying an advantage over districts that had to cut more.

Still, the drawback is hard to overlook.

"On the other side, you hate to see the kids lose time in any activity," Satterlee said. "I don't think the season will be any shorter, so they're losing game time. If they do shorten seasons, that's less time they'll be in a structured environment, which you hate to see."

He said he doesn't believe the cuts will save a ton of money, but if these cuts save the districts from cutting an entire sports program or a modified program, then it's worth it.

Still, I say there should have been more time and thought put into the process. There are other ways to save money instead of taking away games.

Fonda-Fultonville athletic director Alex Mancini said he wished there was more cooperation with the individual sport coordinators to find more creative ways of cutting costs.

"What I'm sure you're going to see at a lot of schools is we'll be trying to double up teams and get schedules to be more compatible," Mancini said. "I'm not just talking about boys' and girls' modified traveling somewhere. You may have a volleyball team traveling with a soccer team to Mayfield. Those kind of things are very important."

Fonda really takes it on the chin. The FFCS teams that play in the Western Athletic Conference rely on non-league games to build a sectional resume. It's not because of the quality of teams they play in the WAC, but the size of the schools. The sectional seeding committees look at how teams perform against schools of equal size when constructing brackets. Now FFCS will have two fewer basketball and soccer games against Class B schools, four fewer baseball and softball games.

DeMagistris said in the Foothills Council, changes have already been made to save money. He said modified teams will play more often against more geographically convenient schools and less often against schools on the other end of the conference.

Also, the Foothills Council tries to get more than two wrestling teams at a match and more than one track and field team at a meet, he said.

These seem like better ways to save money.

One cut getting less attention is the elimination of mandated attendance at NYSPHSAA workshops on safety, sportsmanship, chemical health and the Life of an Athlete program run by Johnstown graduate John Underwood.

Satterlee said he believes the removal of the mandate will cause a decrease in the number of districts using Underwood's program, but he suspects Johnstown will continue to work with him.

"I really think what John does is great," Satterlee said. "He definitely provides a worthwhile service. I think the people who know the program and have been involved in the program will continue to support it. Obviously, there will probably be a drop in people taking part in the program. It's hard to say. I know we're going to continue doing some things with him, mandatory or not."

He said some of the other workshops become repetitive if you've been in the biz a while.

It's unfortunate the NYSPHSAA felt the need to make cuts that could have been left to the districts to make. We can't spend money as freely as we have been spending it, but each district and its taxpayers should be left with the decision of how not to spend its money.

It is more unfortunate to see the athletes lose time in their sports. It's better, however, than losing any sports on the local level, and as Satterlee pointed out, things weren't always so good as they were before these cuts.

"I hate to see the kids lose," he said. "Hopefully, it won't be as impacting as we think it's going to be, but they are the ones who will lose out a little bit. But, 10 years ago, we only played 18 games, and we survived."



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