NCHSAA to study ways to trim budget

Member schools advised to look for ways to cut costs

Staff writerMay 14, 2009 

A special committee of the N.C. High School Athletic Association this summer will look for ways to save money in athletics. The NCHSAA is encouraging local systems to examine ways to do the same thing.

The NCHSAA committee is expected to look at the length of the playing seasons, the number of games contested during the regular season and the number of teams advancing to the playoffs.

"Everybody agrees that our seasons are too long," said Charlie Adams, the executive director of the NCHSAA. "But nobody wants to cut their season or their sport.

"We may have to move past that, though. We have lived in a land of plenty for several years and have been able to expand programs. We were able to do some things that we might not be able to afford now."

NCHSAA revenues are down about 20 percent from last year, Adams said, and he suspects high school programs from throughout the state are seeing similar declines.

Wells Gulledge, the athletic director at Kinston and the boys basketball coach, said the Vikings' basketball playoff revenues were down nearly 40 percent.

"In talking with other ADs, it is tough to stay in the black," Gulledge said.

NCHSAA member schools are beginning two-year scheduling contracts this fall, and major changes in the NCHSAA's playoff bracket or adjusting the length of season are unlikely before the 2011-12 season.

But Adams said local school units can make changes quicker.

"The bulk of the ticket revenue for most of our schools comes from football and basketball," Adams said. "The next tier might be wrestling and baseball. At most schools, the rest of the sports are break-even at best.

"If a school can cut one or two games in a nonrevenue or revenue-neutral sport and save travel and the cost of officials, it might be worth looking at."

Adams said the NCHSAA is not mandating changes.

"What we are doing is telling the schools that they control their regular season from start to finish," he said. "These are difficult times and we have to look at different ways of doing things."

During discussions last week, the NCHSAA board talked about reducing regular-season schedules, especially junior varsity schedules.

"The board talked about things like do junior varsity football teams really need to play 11 games?" said Que Tucker, the deputy executive director of the NCHSAA. "Do basketball teams have to play 24 games just because that's the maximum?

"These are questions being carried back to local systems."

Tucker said schools throughout the state might have to start scheduling creatively.

Cape Hatteras High is inBuxton and has to travel long distances for most games. The Hurricanes schedule with economy in mind.

The baseball and softball teams travel in the same bus, for example. The bus often is treated as a mobile study hall with players doing assignments. Players are expected in their first period class the next day regardless of when the bus returns.

The junior varsity girls basketball team plays a limited schedule, and the cross country team's schedule included primarily Saturday events.

"One of our biggest considerations in scheduling is cost," said Mickey Irving. "We sometimes have a difficult time competing against larger schools like Manteo and [Kill Devil Hills] First Flight, but we schedule them because they are close.

"Here, scheduling with time and cost in mind is a way of life."

Bobby Guthrie, the Wake County athletic director and a board member, said he has told the Wake County coaches to consider changes to schedules and other ways to save money. He said changes should be made on the conference level, not by county systems.

"Throughout the state, we have conferences that have schools from different counties," said Guthrie, noting that next year the Greater Neuse River will have schools from the Wake, Johnston and Harnett systems. "We will certainly look at things on a county level, but I think it is best that the schools within a conference work together."

Shelley Marsh, the athleticdirector of Johnston County Schools, said he is waiting to see the system's final budget.

"We know there may have to be adjustments on the high school and middle school level," he said. "There may have to be some cuts, but we are hopeful everyone can keep their job."

tim.stevens@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8910

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