Southern Delaware High Schools Spending Big Money On Launching Football

September 28, 2011 / Football

Southern Delaware is a relative hub for softball, lacrosse, field hockey and soccer. Teams in this area regularly compete for state champion-ships in those sports, many times winning in dominant fashion.

Those sports can be athletically breathtaking in their own right. They are cheaper and have a much lower risk of injury than football. In fact, it’s safe to say that no sport has a higher risk of injury than football. No sport glorifies unnecessary violence, trash talking and bone-crunching hits like football. Its injuries are so violent that they are often watched on YouTube purely for shock value.

Yet, we love it. We love football in an unabashed, boundless, unconditional way.

No sport draws more viewers, on television or in the stands, and in this area, no sport brings in the fans anywhere close to the amount football does.

And, for high schools in a downtrodden economy, no sport costs nearly as much as football does. Fans pay money to watch mere teenagers play it. For some districts, they pay to watch middle schoolers, too.

The players believe it’s worth it. They get to play the game they love in front of what’s often thousands of people. For most, high school will be the last time they experience this feeling.

Those athletes’ parents also think football’s worth it — they watch their sons compete and become part of a team — unless their child suffers a painful injury, which sometimes prevents them from playing ever again.

In the hearts and minds of teachers and administrators, it’s also probably worth it. A football team is the most powerful connection members of the community have to their schools. But, in pure dollars and cents, it’s a huge drain.

Cape Henlopen School District allocated $225,000 to its athletic department for operating expenses — which means everything but salaries — in its preliminary 2012 budget. In its 2010 financial report, the most recent available, the district brought in just more than $43,000 from ticket receipts across all sports. That money goes back to the district, to be spent at its discretion.

According to Cape athletic director Bob Cilento, football is by far the most expensive sport. Delmarva Christian athletic director Jeff Mohr, whose school doesn’t yet have a football team, says his fundraising goal is $50,000 to start a team, though he’ll settle for $30,000. The school doesn’t even have 200 students.

Luckily for the schools, there are booster organizations that help out with the costs of running a team — the helmets, pads and practice equipment can drive the price up in a hurry — but with an economy that’s been stagnant since 2008, and doesn’t look to be getting better anytime soon, schools will again be making cuts.

These cuts could come from the arts, from the regular bus schedule, maybe even from teacher salaries.

There may be a time when schools must look to the athletic department for savings. When that time comes, school boards will have to ask themselves a difficult question: Is football really worth it?


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