Athletic seasons trimmed to cut costs

Thursday, April 17th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Shortfalls in the education budgets has forced the state high school athletic association to trim the seasons of nearly a dozen sports.

To help school districts save money, the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association has reduced the number of games or matches for fall baseball, fast-pitch softball, volleyball, cross country, wrestling and swimming during the 2003-2004 school year.

Six other sports -- soccer, track, slow-pitch softball, golf, tennis and baseball -- had already been reduced for this school year.

The association announced the change at its monthly meeting Wednesday.

Reducing the length of sports seasons is expected to save schools money, but those savings won't likely be substantial at most places.

According to administrators, a primary source of savings will come from reducing the expenses on substitute teachers, who become necessary when coaches are out of the classroom attending events.

The reductions will remain in effect for 2004.

``I have had nothing but positive response from administrators,'' said OSSAA executive secretary Danny Rennels. ``I truly think the only calls we would have received were if we had done nothing.''

Sports seasons were reduced by about 20 percent, but football and basketball were unaffected because they produce revenue at most schools, Rennels said.

All reductions are for one school year but could continue as long as the financial crisis affecting districts continues.

State funding for education has been trimmed by $161 million this year after revenue fell short of projections.

In wrestling -- the most recently effected sport with the highest number of participants -- events allowed per season haven't been reduced.

But the number of tournaments in which a school can compete has been restricted to five. Previously, schools were restricted to eight tournaments.

In addition, tournaments or events with more than two teams must start at 4 p.m. or later. That will help schools save on the costs of substitute teachers who fill in for coaches gone to events.

Kingfisher wrestling coach Ed Evey said the changes were ``minor'' and ``definitely livable.''

But, Evey said, the 4 p.m. rule could force the size of some tournaments to be reduced.

The rule also could lead to late nights of Friday matches followed by early Saturday morning rounds to complete a two-day tournament.