PG County weighs not competing in playoffs

Principals' association expected to vote today

budget problems cited

High Schools

October 03, 2001|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

The Prince George's County Principals' Association will vote today on a recommendation by the county's athletic association that its high school teams not participate in state playoffs in any sport this academic year.

An unexpected budget cut of 37 percent was behind the action taken by the 38-member athletic association.

"Last week, 90 percent of our association [21 athletic directors and a representative head coach from each of the 17 varsity sports] voted not to play in the playoffs, to abolish our junior varsity programs and cut swimming and cheerleading," said Parkdale athletic direct Bob Graves, who also serves as president of the Prince George's County Athletic Association.

"It's something we didn't want to do, and I really don't think the principals will pass our recommendation. We made a statement to wake somebody up because of the way this whole thing was handled."

The athletic budgets of each of the 21 high schools was cut from $20,475 to $13,000 to accommodate a school board-negotiated 4 percent pay raise for coaches, Graves said. Also, money was drawn from the athletic budget to provide a portion of $215,000 in general funding for the Charles H. Flowers High School (Springdale), which opened two years ago.

"At the time the pay increases were negotiated, we didn't know the money would be deducted from our athletic budgets," said Graves, who will speak to the principals on the athletic association recommendation today.

Central High athletic director Ed Bowie said that if the principals go along with the athletic association's motion, the final say would then come from county superintendent Iris T. Metts.

"She may go along with it, or she can veto it and tell us we're going to play [in playoffs] anyway," Bowie said.

The superintendent's office has suggested that schools engage in fund-raising, such as selling naming rights to stadiums and gyms in addition to selling advertising space to sponsors.

"We weren't told of this a one-third cut until we got back to school this year and consequently some of the money spent during the summer could have been saved," Bowie said. "It put us in a precarious position, and we're hoping our recommendation will have an impact with the parents and public being heard."

Apparently, the former budget didn't pay all the bills, and now with the 37 percent cut, the schools are severely strapped.

"Often, the original $20,000 doesn't cover all of our expenses to run the athletic program and participate in the playoffs," said Eleanor Roosevelt's George Kallas, who is a region director for boys soccer.

"When you get to the region playoffs, you have expenses for travel, bus fees, officials' fees."

Ned Sparks, the executive secretary of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, said money from region gate receipts is kept by the districts, but "some schools don't make enough money to pay all the expenses because it depends on the site and how many people a specific sport might draw."

Sparks said the state tournaments would "go on without them, minus 21 schools" if need be.

"We had state champions without Baltimore City in the tournaments for years," said Sparks (Baltimore joined the MPSSAA in 1993). "But we're hoping they will work things out and play."

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