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Maine out of New Englands if the MPA gets it's way 
Mon Dec 29 2008, 01:41PM
Registered Member #6539
Joined: Tue Dec 11 2007, 04:11PM
Posts: 849
Every body is being affected by the economy and it might even get worse before it improves. Education and athletics are no exception, so with the proposed reduction in state subsidies in education and the expected budget shortfalls across the state, an ad-hoc committee on athletic policy met and is proposing several changes to high school athletics beginning next fall. The committee was formed to "ensure a level playing field around the state," according to Maine Principals' Association. The far-reaching recommended changes, good and/or bad, would be instituted to reduce athletic budgets. Athletic budgets make-up three percent of each school districts total budget, so, the proposed changes will amount to a minimal savings, if any. The MPA must realize that it's the school sports that generate the most interest through out the communities from Kittery to Fort Kent. A proposal would be a reduction in the maximum countable games in every sport: Competitions that allow 12 or more games will see a two-game reduction, while those that play 10 or fewer will see a one-game reduction. For example, basketball and hockey will go from 18 games to 16, while football will allow a maximum of eight games instead of nine. Every athletic director has addressed reducing expenses by rescheduling events, so both boys and girl's teams travel together, depending on the sport(S).

There are calls for a shorter sports season based on the expense in renting pools and hockey facilities. These will be reduced by one week. On on-countable dates, each sport will be allowed just two dates for all scrimmages, exhibitions, preseason and holiday tournaments. This would reduce traveling, however, some sports have already been meeting several other teams in one location.

In sports that use Heal points, the number of teams qualifying for the postseason will be reduced from 67 percent to 50 percent. This makes sense because it would prevent teams with three or four wins from playing preliminary games. If teams haven't earned the right for post-season competition; they certainly don't deserve a free pass.

Maine will withdraw from the New England championships, but why?

NE competition is OPTIONAL, it has NOTHING to do with cutting expenses. Schools are not obligated to pay for a qualifying athlete to compete in NEs. Parents and/or boosters can pay. Eight sports compete at NE (Track-indoor and outdoor, cross-country, wrestling, swimming, cheering, tennis, and golf). Almost every school has at least one of these sports. After 1978, Maine withdrew from New England's and didn't return until 1999.

The MPA Interscholastic Management Committee is expected to vote on the proposed changes in late January. Remember, in the end it is the school principals who will be voting on this.
Mon Dec 29 2008, 01:42PM
Registered Member #6539
Joined: Tue Dec 11 2007, 04:11PM
Posts: 849
This is cut and paste from the MAWA Site
Mon Dec 29 2008, 01:44PM
Registered Member #6539
Joined: Tue Dec 11 2007, 04:11PM
Posts: 849
December 28, 2008
A vote will be taken Jan. 26 on a cost-saving proposal that includes eliminating games.

With high school districts across the state scurrying to adjust their budgets following recent cuts in state subsidies, the Maine Principals' Association has proposed bold cost-saving measures to help athletic programs.

While coaches and athletic directors agree drastic steps are needed, there's debate on how to achieve them.

An MPA committee recently recommended several measures to help athletic departments save money – and perhaps spare programs from being slashed.

They include cutting the lengths of sports seasons, cutting the number of teams qualifying for postseason tournaments and dropping out of New England events.

"We're trying to save money," said Bob Stevens, the York High principal who was the chairman of the 15-member committee. "We have to save money. But we're also trying to save programs."

The measures will be voted on by the MPA's interscholastic management committee Jan. 26. If passed, they will be effective for the 2009-10 school year, with some of the measures starting as soon as next spring.

Among the recommendations:

• Cutting back the maximum number of regular-season games. Sports that schedule 12 or more games will be reduced by two (basketball, for instance, would go from 18 to 16 games; baseball and softball from 16 to 14). Sports with 10 or fewer contests will lose one event (golf would go from 10 to nine matches; all football teams would play a maximum of eight games).

• Limiting the number of non-countable games to two in all sports. That would include scrimmages, preseason exhibitions and holiday tournaments.

• Cutting the number of teams qualifying for tournaments in Heal point sports to 50 percent rather than the current 67 percent.

• Reducing the length of the hockey and swimming seasons by one week, saving money on rental fees for ice and pool times.

• Dropping out of New England competitions.

• Proposing a two-year moratorium on increases in game fees and travel expenses for officials. Their contracts expire at the end of this school year.

The association released its recommendations Dec. 19 and began to receive feedback almost immediately. Dick Durost, the executive director of the MPA, said most have been positive – "I'd say 75 percent as saying we're right on" – but that everyone involved knew there would be criticism.

Coaches, especially, don't like the loss of games, either regular-season or non-countable. Others say the loss of holiday tournaments would cause lost revenues, not saved money.

And still others say the 50 percent rule would eliminate the upset runs that several lower-seeded teams have made in the last few years to win state championships.

"Everyone is going to find a little piece they don't like," said Durost. "There's usually one particular issue that would affect their school or pet program. This is going to be a difficult decision. But frankly, if we don't do it, then superintendents and school districts are going to do it and they're not going to be fair.

"Most of our people have the big-picture view that what we need to do is protect all the kids and programs to the best extent we can. Yes, there are going to be individual sports and programs that have to give up something, but it's better than schools losing programs."

Durost and the committee members believe it's better to have all schools play under the same rules, rather than allow the schools that have larger budgets or more active booster clubs to continue to fund programs while others have to cut sports.

"There was a thought to let schools handle their own situations and cut what they want," said Stevens. "But we felt that would create an imbalance and that subvarsity programs would be hardest hit.

"Our paramount interest was to make sure that every kid was playing on an even field, that schools that could afford to keep things going didn't have an advantage over those that didn't."

That doesn't lessen the sting of some of these measures.

"I feel like it's just a blanket being thrown on a problem," said Charlie Swan, athletic director at Dirigo High in Dixfield. "We're helping one school while maybe hurting another."

Bill Leroy, athletic director at Deering High in Portland, said he's not in favor of the recommendations.

"I'm tired of things being taken away from the kids," he said. "I think that's one solution, but I'd like to see the cuts kept as far away from the kids as possible. It is an option. I don't know if it's the only option or if it's the best option. I know it's a very tough situation."

The proposed cutback in non-countable games may meet the most resistance. Many schools hold holiday or preseason tournaments as fundraisers for their programs. The income lost by having fewer games, or by eliminating them, could be detrimental.

Cony High in Augusta holds two girls' basketball tournaments: a two-day preseason tournament that serves as a scholarship fundraiser in memory of former player Chrisanne Burns (and is part of the school's drug and alcohol awareness weekend), and a three-day Christmas tournament that draws teams from around the state.

Paul Vachon, the former girls' basketball coach at Cony and now its athletic director, said he would have to give up one or both of the tournaments.

"These events have been going on for at least 15 years," said Vachon. "For us to shut down, it's going to hurt us more than help us.

"I'm sure Cony is not the only high school in the state that is running tournaments that allow them to make money for their boosters. I really respect tremendously what the MPA is trying to do. I just think there needs to be more research to go into this before it comes to a clear vote."

In Portland, the four-day boys' basketball tournament at the Expo in late December would be in jeopardy. Bulldogs Coach Joe Russo said that beyond the obvious financial implications, the loss of tournament dates would "not be in the best interests of student-athletes."

The chance to play games is important, he said. "In this age where we're trying to keep kids active, it gives them something to do," he said. "What are the kids going to do in place of that?"

MPA officials say the holiday tournaments are only money-makers for the host schools, that all visiting teams spend money to participate.

Russo said each school has the option to not play.

"Why can't schools just say, 'Sorry, we can't play in your tournament, we can't afford the bus,' " he said.

There are other issues. Dirigo's Swan is more concerned about losing a home gate for basketball, which is a huge draw in the community.

Hampden Academy Athletic Director David Shapiro said the 50 percent rule could have implications. "We played in two state championships as the No. 9 seed," he said. "That wouldn't happen again."

Even the fans don't seem to like every proposal. Tim Burchill, whose daughter, Kayla Burchill, is a sophomore basketball player at Deering, said girls don't play enough games now.

"To cut (the schedule) to 16 games would be hard," he said. "And it would be a shame to have (the holiday tournaments) taken away, too. The kids love to go up there (to Augusta), they love the atmosphere and love playing all the other teams."

Stevens said he knew there would be criticisms. He's been a principal at York High for 31 years and well understands what sports mean to a community.

But he also has a great sense of what will happen if measures aren't taken.

"I don't think the true impact of the financial crisis has really penetrated into the fiber of schools yet," he said. "This is the worst financial situation I've ever witnessed. This is as bad as I've seen.

"So we're trying to preserve as much as we can. We're not going to pull all the way back into the shell, but we're pulling back a little bit."

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:
Mon Dec 29 2008, 04:02PM
Registered Member #5243
Joined: Fri Jan 26 2007, 06:35PM
Posts: 67
Not sure I like any school, from any state, reducing their budgets for athletics. Those kids work hard, and deserve to be recognized for it. And while this is not the forum for other "after school" programs, they all deserve to enjoy whatever activity they participate in. Why would we want our kids to be on the couch playing video games?
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