COLUMN By LARRY HICKS/York Dispatch
A few weeks ago, I made reference to rumors floating around York City that school district officials were considering cutting the entire sports program in an effort to balance the budget for the 2012-13 school year.
And I said that wasn’t going to fly with city taxpayers, especially if it meant losing boys’ basketball.
Cut just about anything else — slash teachers, aides and administrators, close buildings, eliminate the music and arts programs, shut down physical education, clear the decks of anything that smells like history, English, science, mathematics or foreign languages, do away with just about all athletic teams — but for goodness sakes, don’t even consider losing the boys’ basketball team.
Because there will be hell to pay if you do.
And I said there might not be enough (or any) historical memory left in the city school district to remind everyone what might happen if the boys’ basketball team were dropped like a hot potato.
Apparently that was true. Or maybe it’s just that things have gotten so desperate that school officials are down to their last option.
The Page 1 story in Tuesday’s York Dispatch hit the nail on the head: “To make the budget work,” the subhead said, “one scenario slashes administrators, teachers, sports, art, gym and more.”
“More” apparently includes full-day and half-day kindergarten, guidance counselors, bilingual counselors, choir and band (a district hallmark) and the gifted seminar instructors.
District officials consider it a “worst case” scenario. That’s the “worst case” scenario this year, on top of the “worst case” scenario from last year and the year before that.
Floating around within the “worst case” scenario is mention of eliminating all sports programs. That includes, of course, the athletic director and the entire athletic staff. Plus coaches. Because if you don’t have any teams, you surely don’t need any coaches or athletic schedulers, or trainers, or directors.
Hey, now they’re getting serious.
And maybe that’s a good thing.
Most of you won’t remember this. In fact, it took conversation between three old-timers and a 60-something (that would be me) to put the pieces of it together after all these years, but there was a time 45 years ago when the York High boys’ basketball program was in serious disarray.
Not because of finances and budget considerations, either.
But because of fan violence at and after games.
So the PIAA, with the encouragement of the York High principal, Dr. O. Meredith Perry, banned the high school basketball program from playing any night games and competing for any league championships for “two or three years,” according to George Trout, the York High basketball and football game announcer for radio station WORK back in the day.
Trout’s memory about this is pretty good because he has closets in his home filled with old scorebooks and scrapbooks for York High basketball and football games going back to 1901.
So what happened was radio advertisers — “some longtime, hard-core advertisers from prominent York businesses,” Trout said — simply refused to promote the station’s radio coverage of the basketball games. Because of the violence they wanted to disassociate themselves from York High basketball.
“We had no choice but to consider canceling our coverage,” Trout recalled.
Well, that didn’t go down well with York High basketball fans, for many of whom the radio broadcast was their only connection to the team. One, in particular, was Kathryn Fourhman, a city school board member who later became a beloved political figure in York County, including six terms as the York County coroner.
According to Trout, Fourhman had a daughter at York High, and she knew how devastating it would be to school morale if basketball fans couldn’t listen to the games on the radio.
So she called Trout to see if the station would air the games if students and fans could raise money on their own to fund the broadcasts. The station said yes.
Students organized a 5-mile fundraising walk from York High to the WORK transmitter in West Manchester Township (on the hill behind the former White Swan restaurant) at so much a mile. Hundreds of parents and students participated by collecting pledges and taking the hike. Route 30 was lined with students and parents, all headed west.
All the games were broadcast that season, even the away games, Trout said.
My point is there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
The school district is going to do what it has to do to balance its budget. That might include the unthinkable — killing boys’ basketball.
But if students, parents and fans want the boys’ basketball team to continue playing badly enough, there is probably a way to make it happen.
The seniors just did a similar thing to have their graduation ceremony held where they want it next month. The boys’ basketball fans should be able to do the same thing if it’s important enough to them.
So how important is it?
Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.