The Virginia High School League has approved a plan that will trim more than 100 events from all 26 public high school sports schedules in Northern Virginia. The plan, approved last weekend by a majority of principals throughout the state, is designed to cut school energy costs.
The two biggest losers under the new program were soccer and indoor track, while football and basketball schedules remained relatively untouched.
Already, the new schedule has drawn sharp criticism in Northern Virginia. Some coaches thre say several sports were sacrificed so the league would not have to tamper with football and basketball, traditionally the largest moneymakers for school athletic programs.
Under the new schedule, the league -- which governs all extra-curricular activities of its 286 member schools -- eliminated the state indoor track meet and the Group AAA state soccer tournament. The soccer tournament would have been held for the first time this spring.
But only one preseason scrimmage was cut from the football season. In basketball, teams were limited to one scrimmage and 18 regular season games, two less than the current schedule.
"The indoor state meet was picked out of a hat to be done away with," contended Ed Trimm, indoor track coach at Lake Braddock High School. "It's the first step toward doing away with indoor track completely."
Soccer coaches in Northern Virginia said cutbacks in that program -- from 16 to 12 games -- can do nothing but hurt the sport.
"The decision to eliminate the state tournament will cause the resignation of several soccer coaches," predicted coach Ralph Chapman, of Jefferson Highs School, who added that the program probably would lose players, too.
"Kids will say, 'Why should I play high school soccer?' We can only offer 12 games and no state tournament," Chapman said. "What do you say to the kids? You can't say . . . that the people who voted for it are idiots."
League offficials say the decision to leave football and basketball relatively untouched was based on simple economics. Football is the biggest moneymaker for high school sports programs, followed closely by basketball. All high school sports programs are expected to pay for themselves.
"Give the (league) credit," says J.E.B. Stuart High School athetic director Robert Robyak. "Something had to be done and they took the initial step. I know people don't want cutbacks to affect their kids, but energy and money problems affect everybody."
But the question of how much can actually be saved by the new schedule has caused some area officials to be skeptical of the plan.
"No one (at the league) had done a detailed study to show how much energy or money would be saved," said Norman Bradford, principal of Madison High School in Vienna. "It looks like they just cut for the sake cutting." h
"If the league is saying programs cost too much, then the league ought to show us the figures," added Robert Carson, athletic director at Lake Braddock High school.
William Pace, executive secretary of the league, said there was no way for the league to give precise figures on the savings the program would bring.
"There was no estimate made about money because we have 300 high schools." he said.
Pace said the league began considering the cutbacks last fall after "school boards and superintendents started setting their budgets. They wanted some direction (on how to cut energy costs) and inquired as to what the league might do."
In Fairfax County, School Board Chairman Rodney F. Page said the board had no opportunity to discuss the package before it was adopted, and he said he was not consulted about so-called money-saving benefits.
"The way the (league) is structured, boards have little to do with its operation," Page said. "We only know what we say i the league proposal, which came out about two weeks ago.We weren't consulted.
"We ought to look into it and see what the actual dollar value involved is . We have found in the past that there's not a lot of money to be saved in sports. Maybe (the league) knows something we don't know."
Board Vice Chairman Ruth Dell said she saw some merit to the package.
"It makes some sense in terms of what everyone is faced with -- cut-backs," said Dell. "All schools are confronted with huge energy problems, so we must look at all activities for a certain amount of pullback.
"We shouldn't single out athletics to take the brunt, but they have to look at their contribution."
Although most coaches do not agree on where cuts should be made, many do agree on one thing -- that the cost of sports programs is going up.
"It costs me $7,000 a year just to pay game officials," says athletic director Robyak of Stuart High School. "Then there are gasoline problems -- we took 53 trips out of our building just for the swim team. It costs $45 just for one official basketball.
"Couple the increasing costs with the fact that regionally we have suffered a very severe decrease in the number of student spectators. That makes it very difficult to end up in the black."
One principal said he believes the plan was needed and will benefit schools.
"We run the risk of doing away with some activities or going bankrupt so no kids can participate," said Robert Johnson, principal of Stuart High School. "We've overextended ourselves."
Coaches in the area already are coming up with their own ideas for saving energy. One soccer coabh suggested that football games be played during the daytime to conserve electricity. But some athletic directors, who say that would hurt gate receipts at the traditionally crowded Friday night games, suggested that soccer and baseball take the field during daylight hours. g
In the midst of all the debate and suggestions, several coaches say the most important question is what the cutbacks will do to the youngsters involved sports programs.
One principal, who agreed with several colleagues that the cutback would reduce student participation in sports programs, suggested that the plan was simply a new version of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
"Where will the students who don't participate be?" he asked. "Probably out riding in cars or participating in some other energy-consuming activity."
But athletic director Robyak remained optimistic.
"I think the package shocked a lot of people," he said. "It may cause some problems initially, but soon we'll all be in the swing of things. I think kids will still participate. And it shouldn't affect the quality of our sports programs at all." THE SCORE CARD FOOTBALL: No cutbacks in regular season of 10 games or in post-season tournaments. BASKETBALL: Season reduced from 20 games to 18; no games trimmed from post-season tournaments. INDOOR TRACK AND FIELD: Meets reduced from 12 to 10; state meet canceled. OUTDOOR TRACK AND FIELD: Meets reduced from 12 to 10 for each school or individual team member; no changes in post-season meets. Soccer: Games reduced to 16 to 12 games; one invitational tournment scheduled; state tournament canceled. BASEBALL AND SOFTBALL: Games reduced from 20 to 16; no changes in post-season schedule. TENNIS: Matches reduced from 16 to 12; schools may send each player to one tournament; no changes in post-season schedule. GOLF: Matches reduced from 16 to 12; no changes in post-season matches. WINTER AND SPRING GYMNASTICS: Meets reduced from 12 to 10; no changes in post-season tournments. FIELD HOCKEY: Games reduced from 12 to 10; no changes in post-season tournaments. SWIMMING: Meets reduced from 12 to 10; no changes in post-season schedule. CROSS COUNTRY: Meets reduced from 12 to 10; no changes in post-season schedule. Note: The Virginia High School League limited all sports to one preseason scrimmage. In all, the new schedule eliminates nearly 100 events for each school.