May 15 marks the end of the prep athletic season. May 18 could mark the end of much more.
On that fateful Tuesday, Arizona voters will hit the polls for a special election to decide on a temporary one-cent sales tax increase that would continue through May 13, 2013. If Proposition 100 passes, sales tax would increase by one cent per dollar spent, generating between $800 million and $1 billion per year, with two-thirds of that revenue directed toward primary and secondary education.
If it fails, district officials all over the state are predicting dire consequences for their respective athletic programs.
"If it fails, the announcement has come from our district office that the possibility of eliminating athletics across the board in our district is real," said Herman House, director of interscholatics for the Tucson Unified School District. House doesn’t think it will come to that. He believes revenue-producing varsity sports such as football, basketball, baseball and softball will survive, but the reality is, if Prop. 100 fails, Tucson will have to shave about $45 million from its annual budget.
"Athletic directors are a resilient bunch and we always seem to find a way," said Mesa district athletic director Steve Hogen, whose district is the largest in the state. "At the same time, there are fiscal realities you can’t ignore. Sometimes, that has bad consequences for the kids."
Hogen said Mesa was already discussing a pay-for-play fee for all student-athletes. But if Prop. 100 does not pass, that fee will likely rise by 50 percent, putting a hardship on a district with many lower-income families.
House said if Proposition 100 fails, his district is also considering restrictions on travel and a reliance upon fundraisers to pay coaches’ salaries and keep sports self-sufficient.
Here’s a look at the issues some other districts are facing if Prop. 100 fails:
Yuma superintendent Toni Badone said the district would face a $7.2 million deficit (about 14 percent of the budget), which would have to be cut from the budget. Most of the cuts, Badone said, would come from programs such as athletics and salaried positions. Yuma has already banned travel to out-of-area schools for the 2010-11 school year. Flagstaff is considering a similar ban.
Tolleson has already cut golf, swimming, tennis and cross country from its list of interscholastic sports because they don’t produce revenue (like football or basketball) and their elimination will impact the fewest number of students. If Prop. 100 fails, the cuts could go deeper.
Scottsdale could raise its pay-to-play fee as high as $450 per student and the family cap would be eliminated, meaning families with multiple athletes might have to pay in excess of $1,000 a year.
One of the arguments opponents of Prop. 100 cite is school districts’ poor management and wasteful spending. There is ample evidence to support this claim when examining a recent report by the state’s Office of the Auditor General, which found inordinately high administrative, transportation and facilities costs in many of the state’s districts.
But, as is generally the case in public education, most of the suffering for that poor management gets passed on to teachers and coaches (in the form of low pay and layoffs) and students (in the form of large classrooms and slashed programs).
"We provide kids with lifelong lessons," Hogen said. "When kids have to step up in a game and put it on the line with all their peers watching, when they’re facing pressure situations where they come through or even fail, these are huge forces in developing a can-do mindset and preparing them to be adults.
"It’s an experience that I don’t want kids to lose."
The Fab 5
1. Gina Losole, Scottsdale Notre Dame, Jr.: The state 4A-II singles champion led Notre Dame to the team title while wearing a brace that kept her wrist from bending backward. Losole won her singles match 6-0, 6-2, and Notre Dame won its fourth consecutive team tennis title by beating Buckeye, 5-0.
2. Bryce Eisenbart, Anthem Boulder Creek, Sr., P: Lost a no-hitter with two outs in the seventh inning, and also contributed a double, a homer and two RBI in a 6-1 win over Scottsdale Desert Mountain in the 5A-II state baseball tournament. Eisenbart allowed just one hit.
3. Dallas Escobedo, Phoenix St. Mary’s Sr., P: Had 11 strikeouts and allowed just one hit in a 1-0 win over Phoenix Xavier in the quarterfinals of the 5A-I state softball tournament. Escobedo now has 475 strikeouts this season, 26 shy of her freshman season and state-record total of 501.
4. Rocky High, Gilbert Mesquite, Sr., P: High tossed a complete-game six-hitter and knocked in three runs as Mesquite beat Mesa Red Mountain to advance to the 5A-I state baseball semifinals. Earlier in the tournament, Mesquite eliminated national power Chandler Hamilton.
5. Paige Peterson, Tucson Salpointe, Jr., P: Tossed a one-hitter and fanned eight in the Lancers’ 2-0 win over Phoenix Xavier in the 5A-I state softball tournament.
Mesa junior point guard Jahii Carson told The Arizona Republic that since he decommitted from Oregon State, he has received offers from Arizona State, Arizona, UNLV, Marquette, Butler, Boston College, Washington and Cal. Carson, who set single-season scoring and assists records in his first season at Mesa, said he plans to make a decision by the end of July.
National champion Alabama extended a football scholarship offer to Tempe Corona del Sol defensive tackle Todd Peat.
Fresno State became the fifth four-year school to offer Scottsdale Horizon junior point guard Collin Woods a basketball scholarship. He also has offers from Arizona State, Colorado State, San Diego and Weber State.
Boise State offered a football scholarship to Phoenix Mountain Pointe junior strong safety/outside linebacker Israel Marshall.
The 2009-10 prep season concludes with state championships Saturday in baseball, softball, track and field and boys volleyball. We’ll have a list of team champions in next week’s notebook, as well as a look at the more memorable moments from state championship Saturday.
The Scottsdale Thunderbird Adventist Academy softball team walked off the field in the second inning of its state tournament game against Joseph City last week and forfeited. Thunderbird, a Seventh-day Adventist institution, does not play games from sunset on Fridays to sunset on Saturdays, and the sun had just set.
Thunderbird athletic director Brent Burishkin said the Arizona Interscholastic Association refused a request to switch starting times so the game would be finished before sunset because they feared a slippery slope of exceptions for other schools. Superior and Flagstaff Northland Prep had agreed to play the later game at 6:15 p.m. so Thunderbird and Joseph City could start at 5 p.m.
It’s an odd and hypocritical stance by the AIA, considering football games are regularly moved each year from Friday to Thursday to accommodate the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. When the parties involved offer a viable solution, as Thunderbird Adventist Academy did with the schools-approved switching of game times, logic should dictate policy. The AIA flat-out blew this call, and it was the kids who suffered at the hands of an organization whose primary mission is to serve its member schools.
Craig Morgan is a freelance writer who has covered professional, college and high school sports in the Phoenix area for the past 18 years. He currently serves as the Phoenix correspondent for CBSSports.com, covering the Arizona Cardinals and other local teams. He also writes a weekly column and other features for The Arizona Republic. You can reach him at email@example.com.