Could budget cuts hurt Public League sports?

Posted: May 10, 2013

EVERYONE HAS heard the extra-rough rumor: Because of budget miseries, sports will not exist during the 2013-14 school year in the School District of Philadelphia.

Now comes an offshoot rumor: If the district does save sports, it could order teams to withdraw from the PIAA as one of several potential cost-cutting measures.

Two athletic directors told the Daily News they could picture such a scenario.

"This is the first time I've heard this," said Robert Coleman, the czar of Pub sports, as well as the District 12 chairman. "Not one person has discussed that with me. Absolutely not. The superintendent. The people in his cabinet. The SRC [School Reform Commission]. Nobody.

"That would be a travesty. Being in the PIAA gives our athletes exposure around the state."

According to the district, PIAA membership cost $24,000 annually, which Coleman called a "drop in the bucket" within the overall sports budget of $7.2 million.

Coleman said the PIAA outlay covers only school district members. Charter schools pay membership fees and handle other costs on a separate basis.

The school district said in a statement: "The district has not had any conversations about not joining PIAA if funding is intact next year."

Only in basketball and track have Public League schools experienced joy since commencing PIAA competition in the 2004-05 school year. In basketball, the Pub has been wildly successful, even, capturing nine state championships. Just twice has a non-charter done so, however, and no breakthroughs have been made in AAAA.

In football, the PL has gone 6-30 in City Titles and subregional/regular state playoffs, while being outscored 1,504-449. The CTs, featuring the Pub and Catholic League representatives in AA, AAA and AAAA, were instituted for the 2008-09 school year and the Pub is 2-12 with a 524-187 scoring disadvantage.

Of the six overall wins, three were collected by schools - two for Communications Tech, one for Edward Bok Tech - that will close next month. Two games were not included in the 6-30 record because they matched Pub schools against each other (in AA subregionals).

In baseball, in the same kinds of games listed two paragraphs above for football, the Pub has gone 4-42 while being outscored 450-80. It's 0-9 in City Titles and has been outscored, 112-12.

Looking at the big picture, Coleman said he is "very concerned" that sports could be whacked.

Of the $7.2 million budget, he said, "That's for coaches' salaries, equipment, transportation, trainers, everything. The overall budget is $2.7 billion. Sports is a bargain. The best deal in town.

"I'd hate to think what the crime rate would be if 10,000 more kids were in the streets again every day after school. We need to get our pro teams - and everybody - involved to make sure our kids still have sports."

Coleman also acknowledged that the school district's big picture looks less appealing.

"With all these cutbacks being discussed, parents are trying harder than ever to get their kids into charter schools," he said. "That's understandable. I can see that. Hopefully, something can be done about it."

Daily News staff writer Regina Medina contributed to this report.

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