LODI — Sac-Joaquin Section commissioner Pete Saco cast a potential lifeline to the Modesto City Schools, enthusiastically promoting a proposal that allows schools to combine their athletic teams.
"With so many districts facing budget situations, the priority is to create as many opportunities as possible for students to participate in athletics," Saco said at Wednesday's Board of Managers meeting. "This is a carrot to districts during these tough economic times. It's important that people realize we're doing what we can to preserve athletics."
The proposal would enable two or more schools to merge teams, Saco said, if the alternative is eliminating sports.
The section Board of Managers was scheduled to vote on the proposal Wednesday, but the vote was delayed until April to allow for more discussion.
"This allows the league commissioners to go back with accurate information, then return for a vote," Saco said.
The California Interscholastic Federation, is prepared to vote on the proposal in May, CIF associate director Roger Blake said. The CIF is attending section meetings across the state to offer information on the proposal.
Each section will then vote at the state meeting to decide the outcome. If OK'd by the state, it would become policy for the 2010-11 school year.
The plan is novel for California, but it is used in Nebraska: Two high schools merged football programs last season due to declining enrollments.
The CIF's 10 sections would not be required to offer the alternative, but it was received warmly by Sac-Joaquin Section officials. When asked for a show of hands on how they would vote right now, the approval margin was roughly 4-to-1.
Each league has a representative on the Board of Managers. The Modesto Metro Conference's representative was not at the meeting, so the MMC's opinion is unknown.
Modesto's seven athletic directors are working on a plan that will go to administrators soon, but there's no way of knowing what the plan includes or when it will be available for public discussion.
District officials did not answer The Bee's request Wednesday for an update on the discussions and whether the ADs are allowed to consider a "cooperative sports" option.
The district had projected a $250 million budget for the 2010-11 school year, but needs to cut $25 million to avoid a deficit. Athletic programs received $840,000 from the district this school year, a 10 percent cut from a year earlier.
Under the proposal, which began in the Sac-Joaquin Section and has spread to others in response to dire economic situations, combined teams would play in the regular season, but not in the playoffs. A soccer team drawn from two schools would be ineligible for postseason competition.
Athletes in sports such as golf, tennis and wrestling would play on a merged team, but would represent their home school in the playoffs. For example, an Enochs wrestler could compete on a team of wrestlers from Downey, Beyer and Modesto in the regular season. He would wrestle for Enochs in the playoffs.
"The risk if this is not approved is that districts would eliminate sports, because as of now students from one school cannot play on a team from another school," Blake said.