Budget woes won’t force elimination of programs, Wright says

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 14, 2001

[06/14/01] As school districts across Mississippi begin pinching pennies to balance their budgets, athletic programs across the state aren’t expected to be severely affected.

Dr. Ennis Proctor, director of the Mississippi High School Activities Association, said most schools rely on gate receipts to fund their athletic programs and wouldn’t be hurt by receiving less money from the state and local school districts.

“It would probably affect larger districts more than smaller districts because the larger districts have so many more sports that they offer,” he said.

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Vicksburg Warren school district athletics director Lum Wright, whose district includes two Class 5A high schools and two large junior high schools, estimated that 40 percent of the revenue for his district’s programs comes from gate receipts.

He declined to discuss specific programs until the final budget figures are released later this month, but didn’t anticipate any major cuts.

Several capital improvements were discussed at the June 7 meeting of the board of trustees, including girls’ fieldhouses at Vicksburg High and Warren Central, and will move forward.

“I think they’re not going to attack any portions of any of our programs. I think they’re going to balance it to where it’s fair for everybody,” Wright said. “I see us maintaining what we have. I don’t see us gaining any, but I don’t see us losing any either.”

As a private school, St. Aloysius wouldn’t be as affected by budget cuts as Vicksburg High or Warren Central, but could feel the crunch in other ways.

St. Al fields more than a dozen varsity sports teams, more than most Class 1A schools, meaning St. Al could have problems finding Class 1A opponents in smaller sports such as golf, tennis and soccer if small districts are forced to scale back their athletic programs.

The soccer and fast-pitch softball teams already compete in divisions that contain Class 1A, 2A and 3A teams.

“We play big schools anyway. That’s just something that we do to get better,” St. Al athletics director Joe Graves said. “I’d hate to see some of your smaller schools lose sports, but we’ll just have to see what comes about with the budget cuts.”

Like Wright, Graves didn’t anticipate cutting any programs completely.

“That would be up to Mr. Powers,” Graves said, referring to St. Al principal Alan Powers. “It would be an at-all-cost thing. You don’t want to penalize kids at your school for problems at other schools.”

Some suggested ways to ease costs statewide included decreasing the number of football, basketball or baseball games to help lower schools’ travel budgets, but Proctor said that wasn’t an option. He also didn’t expect having to eliminate any sports on a statewide level.

“Football and basketball carry the program. We’re not going to do that,” he said. “If we’re going to make cuts, it’s going to be in programs that don’t make money.”