06/19/11 — Coggins: 'Pay for play' is cost-effective, economic remedy for prep athletics

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Coggins: 'Pay for play' is cost-effective, economic remedy for prep athletics

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on June 19, 2011 1:51 AM

A co-worker said one day that there's good and bad in every situation.

I couldn't agree more.

But pay for play?

Or consolidating sports?

Either one, or both, of those situations could occur if the current economic recession doesn't improve. The proposals could have critical repercussions for athletics programs, which might never recover if the ideas are implemented.

Submissions on the "pay for play" proposal that have been researched indicate that fees will help offset travel and the overall cost of running athletic programs. It's a viable option since the recession has caused budgets to get trimmed down to the bare bones in the past couple of years.

Johnston County schools had to repay their county for gas use for each mile they travel. Other counties have rationed gas and limited activity bus use, which has forced athletics directors to generate ideas to eliminate excess travel.

ADs from the seven-member Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference -- including the three Wayne County schools -- agreed to schedule as many as four home games on the same day to help alleviate travel costs this past sports season. The idea met some resistance, particularly from parents, but it did save the conference some money.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools require high school athletes to play a $100 fee and middle school athletes $50. Buncombe County schools have a transportation fee of $20.

The Pitt County Board of Education finance committee has scheduled a public meeting June 23 to discuss students paying a $20 participation fee. The Board went further by saying that students on free or reduced-price lunches would likely be exempted from the fee.

Wilson County could require its athletes to pay $50.

Wayne County has not tabled a "pay for play" proposal.

A school district in Pennsylvania has flirted with the idea of consolidating its non-revenue sports to cut down on expenses. Each school will keep five varsity programs -- football, boys' and girls' basketball, baseball and softball.

However, just one school in the district will field teams for the non-revenue sports -- volleyball, wrestling, track, tennis, golf and soccer. This proposal saves money by eliminating coaching supplements, reducing travel and other expenses shouldered by having those sports.

What happens to the athletes in that school district who don't play football, basketball, baseball or softball? They're definitely not guaranteed a spot on the team in the non-revenue sport they play. And who is to say that the coach from the "host" school wouldn't take their own player for their respective team before selecting a player from another school after tryouts?

The idea has too many flaws.

Amateur athletics is one of many entities that fuel our country. It's a great learning tool, and a springboard to help talented student-athletes earn a quality education and become productive citizens.

Limiting that resource would be a travesty.

Editor's note: The Associated Press contributed to this column.