Football added to BJHS sports, pending funds
Baldwin Junior High School will have a football program in 2001, if a parents group can raise about $15,000 of the program's start-up costs by November. The Baldwin school board unanimously supported the addition of the sport during Monday night's board meeting.
The school board has heard the request for a football team at BJHS many times Baldwin and Wellsville are the only two schools in the Frontier League without a junior high football program. In the spring, Brian Orloff, who helped start the Baldwin youth football program for third- through sixth-graders last fall, presented a new plan to the board. He, along with other youth football parents and community members, offered to raise part of the sport's start-up costs.
"I'm very excited that the school board approved junior high football," Orloff said. "Throughout this process the board acted prudently. They asked the hard questions and made us come up with answers. About two years ago, another group approached the school board and asked for a football program. Their hard work laid the foundation for us to get this approved. Now we have a short amount of time to raise the money we need to make this a reality."
The first year season which will be in 2001 the district will pay the salaries of the coaches, about $6,000. The parents group will be responsible for the cost of starting the sport about $15,000 for equipment and uniforms for 50 players. Over the following five seasons, the district will pay for the salaries and the upkeep of the sport in 20 percent increments. (The second season the district would pay for 20 percent of the cost to maintain the sport, and the parents group would pay 80 percent. The third season, the district would pay 40 percent and the parents group 60. And so on.)
"It certainly is a significant commitment on our part," Orloff told the board.
District activities director Roger O'Neil said the parents group would need to raise the money by Nov. 1 to participate in the 2001 schedule. Orloff said the parents group will seek corporate and community contributions, or the donation of equipment.
"I think we need to let (the Frontier League) know as soon as possible," O'Neil said. "If we had the money raised by November and we were sure we could (have the sport), we could probably get a schedule."
Orloff said football will give junior high boys an after school activity in the fall, and will fill in the gap of not having a seventh- and eighth-grade program.
"This is important to the community because currently the boys in junior high have no sports activities until December," Orloff said. "This time of their life is very important. They are making choices that will affect their entire lives. The last thing we need is for them to sit around idly after school looking for something to do. With the support of the community we can make this happen."
O'Neil agreed. He said there is not a sport available for BJHS boys until basketball starts in December.
"There is a long period where junior high boys have nothing. We don't have a fall sport for boys," O'Neil said. "We do have a conditioning program, but I think that is a poor substitute. I think football is much better."
Mike Berg, Baldwin High School football coach, said he did not anticipate any scheduling conflicts for practice fields.
"It works out good," Berg said. "We'd have four football games a week."
Berg said he was excited about what adding the sport will mean to the junior high and further down the road at the high school level. In the past, freshmen football is often the first taste of the sport Baldwin youth get. That puts them behind developmentally to players at other league schools, he said.
"I think it's great for our junior high athletes. I'm very excited for them to have a team to compete on in the fall," said Berg. "Now they won't have to take a couple of years off before they get to high school.
"It means to me that we will have some football players that are more prepared fundamentally and attitude wise," he said. "It puts us on a level playing field."
O'Neil said that some junior high home games, because of the need for lighting, may have to be played at Baker University's Liston Stadium. The cost for renting the field should be recovered through entrance fees.
Board members expressed concern about the parents group not being able to meet its financial obligation each year, and were also worried about any Title IX implications. Board president Ed Schulte said it was his understanding that Title IX did not apply to junior high sports. Board members also wanted to know who would pay for the additional cost if more than 50 boys went out for football.
"We'd just have to raise more money," Orloff said. "We don't want to have a cut policy."
Lew Ruona, who helped start a community youth basketball program, eased concerns about the group raising money each year.
"There are people in this community that will support this program," Ruona said. "It happened with youth basketball. It can be done. I will be one of the guys who will be knocking on doors."
The board's approval was met with smiles, handshakes and pats on the backs.
An account will be set up soon at a local bank, or possibly through the district, for donations. Details will be announced when they are available.