April 17, 2008

Sports cuts not big deal locally

The state budget crunch is affecting high school athletics programs across California but, so far, it looks like it will only have a light impact within the Stanislaus District.

The state budget crunch is affecting high school athletics programs across California but, so far, it looks like it will only have a light impact within the Stanislaus District.

Most area school districts are making minor cuts -- transportation appears to be the most affected -- but it's nothing compared to what could potentially happen elsewhere.

At Modesto City Schools, associate superintendent of educational services Craig Rydquist said the district's only current cuts are in the high schools' sports transportation budgets.

Elsewhere, those cuts appear to be even less, although there could still be changes.

"As far as athletics goes, we'll be OK," Escalon athletic director Mark Loureiro said. "Transportation has always been our largest expense, but the way our league (the Trans-Valley League) is right now, our longest drive is to Hughson. That's not bad at all."

In Modesto, where all six public high schools form the Modesto Metro Conference, transportation is even less. In many cases, athletes find a way to games, home and away.

In Escalon, Loureiro said his district's reserve budget will make up any athletics shortfalls, but that won't last long.

"Two years down the road, we may have to make some tough calls," he said. "But right now, we're fielding every team."

Loureiro was referring to a story in The Record of Stockton from two weeks ago that quoted Stockton Unified School District officials saying that cutting freshman sports was a possibility.

Rydquist said the cancellation of freshman sports was one item on a four-page list of potential cuts but was quick to dismiss it as a possibility.

"It's never come up in discussions," he said.

Some school districts are charging "transportation fees" to athletes, but no school district contacted by The Bee said that was a possibility.

"It's not there at all," Rydquist said.

In Turlock, district deputy superintendent of educational services Ed Felt said the district's focus is "belt-tightening."

"We're staying away from the classroom, and we consider all extracurricular activities part of the classroom," Felt said. "We feel we've put together a plan that will get us through the next couple of years."

Private schools such as Modesto Christian don't receive any state monies. Instead, the school charges a transportation fee for all athletes. None of the school's tuition money goes toward sports.

"Our athletic department is 100 percent self-funded, so we've been in belt-tightening mode for years," MC athletic director Greg Pearce said. "Most private schools do it that way, and you might be seeing some public schools doing the same thing."

One is Oakdale, where the district pays for transportation and equipment reconditioning expenses. Everything else is funded through the price of admission, concessions and fund-raising.

"We have a great community that supports Oakdale High athletics very well," Oakdale principal Rick Jones said. "We don't foresee any problems coming anytime soon."

At Oakdale, a one-school town where parents and grandparents graduated as Mustangs, it's easy to garner support.

"We're pretty much self-sufficient with our attendance," Jones said. "We're doing quite well."

So for a year, it appears most school districts will get through by becoming more efficient. But should more cuts come down the road, athletics could take a larger hit.

"At this point, the district is trying to leave the classroom and athletics alone," Johansen High athletic director Jim Davis said. "But everybody could have to make some hard choices."

We'll find out more as budgets become finalized over the next few months. Until then, we just don't know. And everybody is waiting to see.

REGISTRATION is open for the seventh annual Mike Hogwood Coaching Clinic, to be held Saturday, April 26, at Oakdale High School from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. There will be presentations by Patterson coach Rob Cozart (the 4-3 Cover-2 defense), MJC offensive coordinator Rusty Stivers (spread and screen offense), Pitman coach Brandon Harris (practice organization and off-season strategies) and College of Sequoias line coach Irv Panky talking about his specialty, the line.

Call Oakdale head coach Trent Merzon at 847-3007 or e-mail to register.

BASKETBALL coaches, your nomination forms for the Six Counties All-Star Basketball Game are due. Please call game director Bobby Cole at 985-0049 for information. The all-star game is Friday, May 9, at Modesto Junior College.

Will DeBoard's high schools column appears Thursdays. E-mail him at, write him at P.O. Box 5256, Modesto, CA 95352-5256, call 578-2300 or fax 238-4551.

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