Officials from two schools in Prince George's County expressed displeasure yesterday at the Board of Education's decision to cut spending in athletic programs, including a near 50-percent reduction in junior varsity sports.
Frank Tracy, principal of High Point High, and Bowie High basketball coach Bill Franklin said such a drastic reduction in junior varsity sports is likely to hurt varsity sports in three or four years.
"I am very distressed to lose any part of my program," said Tracy, whose boys' basketball team won the Maryland state championship in March. "Junior varsity teams are like the minor leagues. That's what we build our programs on.
"I'm standing here looking at a picture of 10 players who won the state basketball tournament. And every single one of them played junior varsity."
The athletic program cuts will save approximately $382,000 and were among the economy measures forced by the $35 million cut in the overall school budget voted by the County Council. The number of junior varsity basketball games will be reduced from 18 to nine, varsity games from 20 to 18. The cuts will also eliminate games from the varsity baseball, softball and soccer schedules. The 10-game varsity football schedule will be unaffected.
Franklin said there may be a problem in revising the schedule because several of the 19 schools play schools out of the county. But his biggest concern was the effect a skeleton junior varsity program will have on the varsity sports.
"We may not see any change in the next year or two," Franklin said. "But in three years or so, you'll definitely see a difference. A basketball player for example, when he sees he can't compete (in more than nine games) until the 10th grade, might not want to go to school in PG County. We've already lost lots of good athletes because the junior high school athletics here were cut out. Now kids will probably go to schools outside the county. The quality of play could suffer quite a bit."
Another potentially controversial school board proposal--charging each varsity athlete a participation fee of $10 to $15--was left open. Tracy and Franklin said they are both against such a measure.
"I don't like to assess kids for anything," Franklin said. "I've got to study the proposals more before I take any position on some things. But I just don't like charging the kids."
"I hope it doesn't come to the point of charging the kids a participation fee," Tracy said.
"The board has tough decisions to make," Tracy continued, "and I know this decision was not made in haste. I'm disappointed and distressed. But maybe I'm looking at this too parochially. The board had to be broad."