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Proposal would consolidate city football teams

The McKinley Macks, the Bennett Tigers and the South Park Sparks would cease to exist next year under a proposal to consolidate the Buffalo Public Schools’ eight football teams into four.

The plan would create four district-wide teams, with one in each quadrant of the city.

“I think we need to downsize our football program and make our teams more competitive,” Athletic Director Aubrey T. Lloyd III said.

Some teams now have so few players that some of them have to play both offense and defense, which exhausts them by the end of the season, he said. If the district merges its teams, there will be more players on each one.

“Coaches could have their pick of who they put in the game,” Lloyd said. “We could specialize with offensive and defensive programs.”

He presented his proposal Wednesday night to the School Board, which seemed ready to approve it on the spot. But after some discussion, board members decided to wait until next Wednesday to vote on the plan.

Some board members acknowledged there’s likely to be an outcry from people opposed to the consolidation – but the majority of them signaled their agreement with the plan.

“Winning solves a lot of problems, folks,” at large board member John B. Licata said, a reference to the likelihood that consolidated teams would be stronger teams.

In the past two years, the district’s overall win-loss record dropped significantly. In 2010, city teams won 44 percent of their games; this year, they won 28 percent.

This year, in fact, only two teams won more than half their games: Burgard, which won two-thirds of its games, and McKinley, which won slightly more than half.

Student participation on the city’s football teams has also declined. In August 2010, 535 athletes participated on the eight teams. This summer, that dwindled to 428 athletes – a decrease of more than one-third.

Under Lloyd’s plan, each new team would be composed of players from three or more city schools:

--Buffalo North: Bennett, Burgard, Olmsted, and Math, Science and Technology Prep.

--Buffalo West: Riverside, McKinley and Lafayette.

--Buffalo East: City Honors, East, Performing Arts, International Prep, da Vinci and the Academy School.

--Buffalo South: South Park, Hutch Tech, Emerson and Middle Early College.

Lloyd said that consolidating the teams would also enable the district to hire new coaches. Under the Buffalo Teachers Federation contract, the district has to hire teachers as coaches.

The District Parent Coordinating Council has for more than a year called for an end to that restriction, saying that it limits the quality of the coaching staff.

Some of the existing coaches are not as good as others, Lloyd said. If the district does consolidate its teams, officials will get to post the coaching positions as new positions and consider applications from across the district, rather than only considering applications from teachers within one particular school, he said.

He estimated the cost savings as fairly minimal: about $15,696 by cutting the number of coaches, plus additional savings through playing fewer games. But any money that’s saved would likely be spent on
increased transportation costs arising from transporting players from different schools to a central practice location, he said.

Currently, eight schools field football teams: Bennett, Burgard, McKinley, Riverside, East, South Park, International Prep and Hutch Tech.

Principals from the schools generally want to maintain the teams as they are – keep the team name, team colors and team mascot for each school as part of its identity. Five of the principals have lobbied Superintendent Pamela C. Brown to keep the teams intact.

Brown limited her public comments on the proposed merger, focusing only on her interest in making sure students have as much access as possible to athletic opportunities.

“I hope this isn’t moving in the direction of making athletics a kind of exclusive opportunity for children overall,” she said. “I am one who believes strongly in all children having access to these kinds of opportunities, even if it isn’t at the competitive level.”

Each of the four teams would have a varsity and a junior varsity component, Lloyd said, and he would like to bring intramurals or extramurals into the district to provide non-competitive opportunities for more students.

-- Mary Pasciak

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About Prep Talk

Keith McShea

Keith McShea

Keith McShea has covered high school sports at The News since his hiring in 1999. The 1995 University at Buffalo graduate and Long Island native (North Babylon Bulldogs) covers — and live blogs — everything from scrimmages to state championships & helps head The News' All-Western New York selections.

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