WARRENSBURG - Modified level sports may be undergoing substantial changes beginning this fall for schools in northern Warren County, following potential initiatives now under consideration by officials at area high schools.
More than a dozen high school athletic directors from around the region representing the Adirondack League met Monday, March 21 and top on their agenda was discussing ways of cutting expenses associated with the interscholastic Modified sports that serve 7th, 8th and 9th graders.
Instead of competing in a standard schedule of sports games against other schools, junior-high level student athletes may be participating in "instructional clinics" in which no formal score is tallied and certified officials aren't governing the play, according to a proposal discussed by the school officials.
These scrimmages, rather than the traditional games, might be played in central locations rather than each school's campus to save driving time and transportation expenses, according to discussion heard at a meeting last week of area school sports administrators.
Also, league divisions could be realigned according to geographic considerations to cut travel time and fuel expenses, Warrensburg Central School District Athletic Director Steve Nolan said.
Nolan described the proposal to members of the Warrensburg Board of Education Monday as they were reviewing the potential impact of cutting the school's Junior Varsity sports program to save $46,000 in an effort to balance the 2011-2012 school district budget.
He said that a trial of the Modified-level cutback initiative was held this year with volleyball, and offered a learning experience of how actions could be taken to change other interscholastic sports.
"We're hoping to retain the sports program as close as possible to what it's been without eliminating opportunities for kids - that's our goal," Nolan said.
He said these clinics would allow the schools to take an end-run around the officials, who collectively have contractual pay agreements with the league. He said the Modified coaches might be officiating at the clinics to save schools money, and their emphasis would be on teaching fundamental skills and game rules rather than competition. Such a change in purpose would allow the schools to bypass regulations about paying the officials mandated for regular competitive play, school officials said.
Nolan added that if such cutbacks were enacted, North Warren Central School, Bolton Central, and Warrensburg - and perhaps other schools - would likely be attending such clinics together, and they might share transportation to a central site. He noted that the schools with a higher prevailing local wealth might be attending more clinics than those with a lower community economic profile.
Lake George Central Athletic Director Mark Bleibtrey said he did not want to reveal specifics about the proposals raised.
"Athletic directors are looking at every possible scenario to save money in these difficult economic times," he said. "At this point, there are no definitive solutions, but we'll be doing anything we can to save districts money while keeping the integrity of the athletic programs."
The group of Adirondack League athletic directors will be meeting again in the first week of April, Bleibtrey said.
"The extreme option is cutting programs, which no one wants, but certainly we all have to do something," he said, noting that already, Lake George has adopted a "bare bones" policy on athletic equipment purchases.
"The top concern of all the athletic directors, of course, is the kids, but we still have to be financially responsible," he added.
Athletic directors from North Warren and Bolton Central could not be reached Tuesday morning.