VANLUE — Parents and students at Vanlue Local Schools, the future of the football program is in your hands.
That’s the message the school district’s coaches and administrators are trying to convey as the deadline approaches to inform the Blanchard Valley Conference whether or not it will field a team in the fall of 2010.
Because of a BVC bylaw, adopted by the league’s administrators last February, Vanlue Athletics Director Michelle Brian and head football coach Robin Cooper are scrambling to make certain the Wildcats will have enough players for the 2010 campaign.
BVC Bylaw 33 states that conference schools are required to notify the BVC president and executive secretary in writing no later than six months before the start of the first day of practice if the school will not be able to begin and or complete a full varsity season in the sports of football, volleyball or boys and girls basketball.
If a school can’t complete the season, it will owe a penalty fee to each BVC school that was scheduled to host the school that could not field a team. The penalty fee owed would be calculated by the home school’s treasurer and will be the average amount from the three most recent home gate receipts with the school that was unable to field a team. If a school failed to pay the penalty fee within three months, the school could face dismissal from the BVC.
Cutting through the jargon and legalise, if Vanlue committed to play football and was forced to cancel a road game against another conference school, Vanlue would have to pay a fine to replace that school’s lost revenue because of the cancelled game.
A school could likely survive canceling one scheduled game, but if a school were forced to cancel multiple games, that would be disastrous for a athletic department.
“We need to get the word out to parents. If we don’t play an entire season and we have to pay the fine levied by the BVC it could cost us as much as $25,000 to $30,000 and that would bury the school and the football program,” Cooper said.
Vanlue has scheduled a Jan. 8 meeting to determine how many players are committed to playing football at the school next season. In addition, the school has also sent home letters to parents of students at the school explaining the situation.
For the past decade, the school has struggled with numbers in its football program but has always been able to field a team.
Cooper had 25 players sign up prior to the 2009 campaign and when the season began 16 players showed up for the first week of practice.
Despite speculation from outside the community that the Wildcats would be unable to complete the 2009 season, Vanlue completed its 10-game schedule, winning the season opener against Ridgemont before dropping all nine of its BVC games.
The Wildcats were competitive in a couple of conference contests even with their small and youthful roster that included just two seniors.
“Our eighth grade numbers look pretty good. Even though its nice to have those numbers, I’m still concerned about retaining some of the older kids and getting some others to come out and participate,” Cooper said.
“As it looks right now, our numbers will be better than last year but we still won’t be up to that number 22 which is my goal for the program right now.”
The school’s lack of football numbers isn’t helped by the fact that Vanlue is the smallest public school in Ohio to field a grid team.
According to figures provided by Vanlue, there are just 33 boys enrolled in grades 9-11. Add in the 10 boys in the eighth grade class and that’s a pool of 43 boys in the entire school to draw from.
There are 12 seventh grade boys in school and a class of just four boys in sixth grade. That’s a total of 59 boys at Vanlue in grades 6 through 11.
By comparison, Hardin Northern is the next-smallest BVC school in terms of boys enrollment with 71 boys in grades 9-11. Liberty-Benton is the largest at more than four times the size of Vanlue.
Cooper and Brian visited each class in grades 6-11 last week getting the word out and recruiting players to suit up next fall for both the junior high and high school teams.
Last summer, Cooper conducted a summer football clinic for elementary school boys to help introduce them to the game.
“We want to change the mind set of some of the kids at school. We want them to believe they can be competitive and with a few more kids out for the team, we can be more competitive,” Cooper said.
“We got a lot of compliments from other coaches around the league. I think the kids were more disciplined and better conditioned than Vanlue teams of the past. We’re getting there and heading in the right direction.
“Right now, we’re taking baby steps.”