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Saving Indoor Track

Money is Not the Issue

Published April 21, 2003 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

The projected deficit in the state budget and the resulting uncertainty in local budgets led the Syracuse City School District to consider deep cuts in its athletic programs. In a draft budget for next year, one third of the athletic budget may be slashed, including the elimination of indoor track in all four Syracuse public high schools.

Kathy McCluskey, the coordinator of athletics for the Syracuse City School District, confirmed that indoor track, golf and bowling may be eliminated next year. McCluskey and the four athletic directors sought to achieve the desired savings of almost $360,000 by combining teams, but reached the conclusion that programs may have to be eliminated, and adopted a seemingly simple criterion for selecting programs. Those programs that required the use of non-district facilities were first on the chopping block.

Section 3 uses Syracuse University's Manley Field House and Hamilton College's indoor track for its indoor season at a cost of $1,000 per participating school. Oscar Jensen, Section 3 coordinator, provided a budget breakdown for the 2003 indoor track season. The rent of the Syracuse and Hamilton facilities cost $10,900. The officials. honorarium, ranging from $30 to $46 per meet, totaled $12,705, and the awards added up to about $5,000. Thus, Section 3 organized a series of fifteen meets among 48 high schools for under $30,000.

The School District's criterion misses the mark. According to David Kirby, indoor track coach at Fowler High School, the total cost of the program for all four high schools is under $55,000 per year, with only $4,000 paying for facilities. The lion's share of the indoor track budget pays for negotiated coaches' compensation. With 120 city athletes participating in indoor track and field, the cost per athlete is a fraction of that in other sports.

Saving indoor track in Syracuse public schools requires more than just a generous benefactor. McCluskey indicated that likely donors may not earmark their contributions to a specific athletic program. Since the Bill of Rights does not extend to after-school activities, a tax raise to save indoor track is not the answer either.

Given the irrefutable scientific link between physical activity and health, the present need provides an opportunity for numerous charities to put their money where their rhetoric is. From the Race for the Cure to the Heart Association, the cost of saving indoor track is a miniscule fraction of their local spending, and carries a greater long-term potential of effectively fighting disease.

The current crisis further accentuates the need for a dedicated indoor track facility. It may also open the door for local track clubs to play a proactive role in supporting high school athletics.

© 2003 The Post-Standard.

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. Dr.J. created TrackMeets.com, webcasting live Every Lap of Every Race. He receives email at jabbour@i2sports.com.

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