Athletics nearing extinction in San Jose

There are superintendents like Scott Scambray, an advocate of after-school activities; a guy who still believes whole-heartedly that sports and band are sacred during these hard economic times.

And then there's this guy.

Bob Nunez, superintendent of the East Side Union High School District, recently unveiled a budget that includes, among other things, cutting out athletics. The school district is home to a few Central Coast Section stalwarts: Evergreen Valley, Independence, Mount Pleasant, Oak Grove, Overfelt, Piedmont Hills, Silver Creek and Yerba Buena.

Within that list, you've got roughly 437 section championships and 32 state champions in 40-plus years of competition. Independence ranks 10th overall in championships won with 117.33 section titles -- in a section that includes state and regional juggernauts Bellarmine Prep and Serra. Overfelt has the ninth-best boys program, accumulating 61.5 titles.

Let that soak in for a second.

Scary, right?

History, promise and a proven formula for success ...

Gone, just like that.

In order to make the numbers matchup, Nunez decided his district could save $2.1 million by wiping out football, basketball, soccer and all other athletic programs. School officials told the San Jose Mercury News that the district has enough money to balance the budget this fiscal year, but without cuts, the district will be in the red in 2010 and 2011.

Now you might be thinking: How dare he? Or he can't do this ... can he?

Your concerns are justified. And expected.

A few potential fallouts, should a district do away with athletics:

-- Behavioral problems in the classroom and out

-- A potential rise in dropout rates

-- A reduction in enrollment, should parents decide to relocate to a district with extracurricular activities

-- Blight. Without athletics to help support and maintain facilities, what do you think happens to the baseball fields, football stadiums and locker rooms?

-- And the proliferation of club sports, eventually rendering high school sports obsolete

But understanding school administrators (I've got a family full of them), this wasn't a rash decision. I can promise you that much. Nunez didn't roll out of bed on the morning of his budget meeting and decide, "I've got it. Let's cut out athletics. Save a ton of money. And upset off 3/4 of the populace."

Nunez simply made a proposal that so many districts will have to eventually face -- his, of course, being the most extreme. As the state budget deficit swells by the moment, more and more districts like ESUHSD and the Merced Union High Schools District are going to have to make cuts. And as I reported in a column last week, the ax will fall in all corners of the educational arena, including sports and activities.

Scambray promises that he'll try to preserve sports and the like.

And that's admirable.

Let's just hope the suits in Sacramento don't force him to go against his better judgement.