Superintendent Michael E. Hickey's proposed $105,000 reduction in the school system's 1992-1993 athletics budget comes with a warning that deeper cuts appear imminent.
Hickey's proposal aims to eliminateworkshop pay for all soccer coaches and junior varsity football coaches, decrease the need for security at evening and weekend games by moving those events to the afternoon, and to curtail uniform purchases.
The cuts are part of a $183.7 million budget Hickey proposed lastweek. Under Hickey's proposal, the athletics budget would be reducedfrom $1.3 million to $1.2 million.
"This was a way of reducing athletics expenditures while retaining the programs themselves. From the standpoint of the students, the impact will be minimal," Hickey said.
"We have to build the budget on the assumption it is going to be cut," he added. "Things are going to be cut. People might as well face up to that."
Hickey hinted at the possibility that, should athletics suffer a drastic cut, students might be required to pay to play sports next year.
The county's high school athletic directors already have discussed that and the possibility of eliminating some sports. They have wrestled with such questions as which sports would be cut, how pay-to-play money would be collected and how students would be charged based on financial need.
"It brings about a bunch of problems," said Don Van Deusen, Atholton's athletic director. "It wouldcreate an awful lot of extra book work. We have trouble enough collecting parental permission forms (to play sports) and copies of physicals. The bottom line is, if it comes to that (pay to play) rather than cutting JV sports or some varsity sports, I'd support it."
Hickey's proposal to eliminate evening and weekend sports events -- he hasnot decided if he wants Saturday football games moved to Friday -- has attracted endorsement and criticism.
Moving games to the afternoon, an idea which high school principals support, would allow the system to cut about $40,000 in security costs, Hickey said.
Faculty administrators, county police and CES Security -- "rent-a-cops" -- provide security at games. Hickey said playing all afternoon games would reduce the need for rent-a-cops and would not require school administrators to work 15-hour days during the winter season.
Howard Principal Eugene Streagle supports Hickey for academic, security and personal reasons. Streagle thinks students, particularly during the winter sports season, spend too much time playing or watching night gamesand not enough time studying. He would like to see Friday night games maintained, but weeknight contests killed.
"From a purely personal point of view, it's a plus," Streagle said. "There's a big difference between getting home at 11 o'clock as opposed to getting home at 7. The kids still have the activity. In some cases, mom and dad won'tbe able to go."
"It would be nice to get home earlier in the evening to see my kids, and it wouldn't have any effect on my players or the way I prepare them," said Glenelg boys basketball coach Terry Coleman.
Inevitably, Hickey says, crowds at afternoon basketball games and wrestling matches would be smaller than those at nighttime events. That in turn would reduce gate receipts. Last year, high school sports generated about $70,000, which was pumped back into the school system's general fund. The likelihood of smaller crowds, especially the absence of many working parents at afternoon games, has some coaches upset at Hickey's proposal.
Atholton girls basketball coach Graydon Webster said, "I try to encourage parental participation, and the kids play for that, too. I feel it would be a real detriment to thekids' morale. Girls basketball gets fewer spectators (than boys) as it is. The savings they're talking about, I can't see where it's worth it."
Hickey also wants to eliminate nearly $60,000 in workshop stipends from junior varsity football coaches and all soccer coaches. State bylaws demand that only varsity football coaches report to fallpractice on Aug. 15, after which coaches must be compensated for twoweeks at $75 a day.
The school board granted workshop pay five years ago to soccer coaches, who also begin Aug. 15.
"We fought to get it (workshop pay). It was something they agreed to, and now they're taking it away. It's a slap in the face," said Hammond girls soccercoach Dave Guetler, who said a state rule requiring 20 days of practice before playing any games will make scheduling early season games difficult.
"They keep picking away at us," he added. "It's got to hurt the program. But we'll survive. We always do."