November 6, 2014 | by Mark McDonald
A Tilted Playing Field

Suburban Powers Outspend, Maul Have-Not Programs

By Bo Carter
College Insider, sportsandoutdoors.guru

Again, we’re talking inequities in programs, equipment, band instruments, administrators, and even hometown fans unable to get off work to attend games.

In Allen, Texas, the local high school Eagles play in a $60 million stadium (left) that seats 18,000. By contrast, numerous Dallas Independent School District schools share a 3,500-seat stadium in Seagoville. (photo at left by Aerial Photogoraphy, Inc., right by DISD)

In Allen, Texas, the local high school Eagles play in a $60 million stadium (left) that seats 18,000. By contrast, numerous Dallas Independent School District schools share a 3,500-seat stadium in Seagoville. (photo at left by Aerial Photogoraphy, Inc., right by DISD)

This is the contrast of high school football games in Seagoville and Terrell, Texas, on Thursday and Friday nights, Oct. 16-17, respectively.

Seagoville, 7-0 overall and 3-0 in district play, was unable to put together a complete band its first three games and played a recorded national anthem and drumbeats for the drill team.

The squad may be headed back to the UIL playoffs against unrelenting odds and some tough district contests down the stretch.

Terrell, on the other hand, played longtime rival Forney in a rejuvenated THS Memorial Stadium, whose façade and press box would put many NCAA Division III and NAIA programs to shame.

In sports, drama, theater or in band competition, student participation numbers – and $$$ -- factor into the outcome. Here, Harlingen High struts its stuff. (Wikipedia photo)

In sports, drama, theater or in band competition, student participation numbers – and $$$ — factor into the outcome. Here, Harlingen High struts its stuff. (Wikipedia photo)

Terrell’s drill team was featured during Homecoming halftime festivities with fundraising opportunities denoted for the group to travel to Ireland March 17, 2015, to march in the famed St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin. Dublin … as in Ireland, not Erath County, Texas. Meanwhile, if Seagoville advances in the football playoffs, the school drill team might not be able to afford to attend the second round.

So where’s the balance, the level competition? Heck with equal outcome, can’t we give these kids equal opportunity? And why not?

The immediate future is no brighter.

The City of Dallas has been in the throes of a declining property market and losses of its covered Triple A bond rating. Not long ago, the city was close to $75 million in debt with the DISD and Parkland Hospital contributing largely to the deficits.

Fairly bristling with discipline, direction and support, this band from West Orange, N.J. shows the obvious benefits of commitment and resources.

Fairly bristling with discipline, direction and support, this band from West Orange, N.J. shows the obvious benefits of commitment and resources.

The DISD schools utilize Seagoville’s 3,500-seat stadium, with its deteriorating artificial surface due to heavy foot traffic — two football games weekly, numerous soccer matches and other SHS activities year-round. Many Dallas schools, like many across the nation, face a double whammy of youngsters who must work at minimum-wage jobs on weekday afternoons to make ends meet. These kids have no time for after-school band, football, drama, or other invigorating high school activities.

Some of the area private schools, which charge as much as $10,000 in annual tuition, have dropped to six-man football teams as a cost-cutter — or ended football programs altogether.

Yet, Catholic-run private Bishop Dunne smoked 3,000-enrollment Dallas Carter 55-7 early this season. An assistant coach at Dallas Spruce HS pinpointed the problems:

“We don’t have half the (participating) kids for our Tuesday-Wednesday major workouts because they are working after school. (The district has) cut down our junior high school and middle school coaching staffs from 8-9 fulltime coaches to maybe a couple of fulltime and 2-3 part-time coaches willing to help. We just don’t feel like the DISD gives us great support.”

The growth of club or so-called “select” teams adds to the competition gap, notably in the sports – volleyball, golf, tennis, soccer, football, baseball – where individual “ball skills” are highly prized.

Parents of means can afford to pay outside instructors to teach their kids refined ball skills so useful in tennis, golf, baseball, volleyball and, of course, football. (photo by Johnny Johnson)

Parents of means can afford to pay outside instructors to teach their kids refined ball skills so useful in tennis, golf, baseball, volleyball and, of course, football. (photo by Johnny Johnson)

Parents who can afford to pay for expert instruction beyond the public school campus do so with no hesitation, believing that dollars spent on a 7th grader will one day lead to high school stardom and college scholarships. They might be right.

Coupled with some of the STAAR testing results, there was a mass firing of 22 administrators and teachers at one middle school for non-athletics issues. When one DISD school board member tried to attend a meeting inside the school where the superintendent was talking about the changes with staff, the board member was forcibly removed. There is video. Hardly the kind of activity that leads to progress and stability.

Small wonder that funding, personnel and unified course of direction make it tough for even the most storied programs such as Dallas Skyline, (in recent years) Hillcrest and Woodrow Wilson HS to compete on a consistent basis.

City schools are surrounded by suburban powers – Allen (650-member band, 48 student managers and trainers), DeSoto with up to 25 assistant coaches and traditional powers Southlake Carroll, Euless Trinity and the Plano schools. These deep-pocket programs have the resources to provide elite uniforms and across-the-board support from booster groups.

It’s virtually a hand-tied-behind-the-back situation for many high schools in Dallas, and not just in DISD … Ditto for Houston, Fort Worth, El Paso, and Texas South Valley areas. All these have-nots must climb the crest of competition, and short of throwing money at the issue through even more heavy-handed government control, there is no simple solution to balancing dollars, time, talent, faculty, or school resources.

In the meantime, when it comes to the total high school experience, many young and promising football student-athletes, band members, spirit groups, and related individuals get short shrift.

 

Bo_CarterBo Carter, former sports information director of the old Southwest Conference and the Big 12, covers college and high school sports for sportsandoutdoors.guru. During football season, he covers 2-3 high school games a week for Dallas-Fort Worth area newspapers.

 

 

 

 

 

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