Stevens

Lee County may cut out athletics

Staff WriterApril 9, 2011 

One of the proposals to balance the budget for public education in Lee County is to cut back or eliminate interscholastic athletics, but that step would not be taken lightly, said Lee Senior principal Greg Batten.

"We know the value of athletics," Batten said. "We know that athletics teach great values, enhance the schools and benefit children. We know all the great things that athletics do.

"But our leaders are facing tough decisions."

Batten, a former high school baseball coach, said 31 of the top 50 students in Lee Senior's graduating class in 2010 were athletes. Studies have shown that high school athletes make better grades, have better attendance and drop out less often than non-athletes, he said.

"But Lee County is like every other county in North Carolina," Batten said. "We're waiting to see what the state budget will provide for public education. Our superintendent has prepared budgets that include cuts from the state of 3 percent, 5 percent and 10 percent.

"With a 10 percent cut, one of the options is cutting high school athletic programs. We're trying to be proactive and let our students and parents know there could be important changes."

WCA coaching changes: Randy Johnson, who coached Wake Christian Academy varsity football for 15 years before resigning after the 2006 season, is resuming head coaching duties in the fall.

Johnson, a 1987 graduate of Wake Christian, was the school's football coach from 1992 through 2006. His teams won N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association state titles in 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000.

Johnson, who is the school's athletic director, succeeds David Williams, who had replaced Johnson in 2007.

"We had just swapped positions for a while," Johnson said. "I had planned on coming back."

Williams is expected to remain on the staff.

Wake Christian also is making a change in boys basketball. Chris Underwood is replacing Will White as the varsity boys coach. White is expected to coach the junior varsity team.

A 2007 graduate of Wake Christian, White played soccer, basketball and golf at the school and was an N.C. Christian School Athletic Association all-state selection in basketball. He graduated cum laude from N.C. State in 2010.

Grimes lands White Oak job: Former Millbrook High boys tennis coach and boys basketball assistant Chris Grimes is the new boys basketball coach at Jacksonville White Oak. Grimes joined the White Oak staff last fall and was the varsity assistant basketball coach to Greg Grantham and the junior varsity basketball coach. He is coaching the Vikings' varsity boys tennis team this spring.

White Oak's basketball team is coming off a 1-23 season and hasn't had a winning season since going 14-11 in 2009, according to the Jacksonville Daily News. Grantham had coached the Vikings for 18 seasons, and his teams won 18 or more games nine times between 1996 and 2006.

Grimes is a graduate of Millbrook High, UNC Wilmington and N.C. Central.

Sullivan resigns: Northern Durham has not named an interim head football coach in the wake of former coach Anthony Sullivan's resignation last week.

Sullivan had been the coach at Northern for three seasons. He previously had been an assistant at Millbrook High.

The N.C. High School Athletic Association contributed to this report.

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

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