A lacrosse team at Bellefonte Area Middle School may lose district funding due to recently discovered problems with its Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association designation, said Bellefonte Area School District Athletic Director Jimmy Soltis.
In a controversial decision in May, the BASD board of directors approved transitioning club lacrosse teams at the high school and junior high level in the district to PIAA-sanctioned lacrosse teams. District Fiscal Affairs Director Ken Bean said the whole program would cost the district about $130,000.
But Soltis said that, recently, when looking into which schools the middle school lacrosse teams could play, he couldn’t find any other PIAA teams in the area. The Mid-Penn Youth League, which the junior high leagues would play in, is part of U.S. Youth Lacrosse and the other teams in that league are all clubs.
Harrisburg Academy was the only other school in the region with a PIAA-sanctioned junior lacrosse program, but they recently disbanded to become a club team, said Soltis.
Additionally, under PIAA rules, sixth-graders are not eligible to play in the same age bracket as seventh- and eighth-graders, meaning even if there were PIAA teams to play in the area, BAMS sixth-graders could not participate.
Bean said at the Sept. 25 school board meeting that the district allocated $38,604 for the middle school/junior high lacrosse program in its budget.
If the middle school lacrosse program went back to being a club, the district would not have to provide any funding for coaches, equipment and other program costs.
Edward Gannon, the head coach for the boys middle school club lacrosse team, said that while he understands pulling funding for middle school lacrosse might be the best fiscal decision for the district, he would like to see some type of supplemental funding for safety and financial reasons.
“Because (lacrosse is) a contact sport,” he said, he would like help from the district in funding athletic trainers and establishing concussion protocol. “There should be some ability to use some of the school resources (for that).”
Gannon also wants to defray the cost of registration for kids who might otherwise not play lacrosse for monetary reasons. He estimated it costs about $100-$150 for each kid to play, covering just registration and gear.
The club lacrosse program has about 100 youths involved already. “This is a huge opportunity (for the school district) to get kids to stay involved in sports,” Gannon said.
No action was taken at the Sept. 25 board meeting on whether to keep the middle school program district-sponsored.
With lacrosse set to start in the spring, the school board agreed the decision must be made quickly.
Bellefonte Area High School boys and girls junior varsity and varsity lacrosse will not be affected because there are PIAA-accredited high school teams to play in the area. According to Soltis, the girls team already has nine games scheduled and the boys team will begin scheduling in November. No coaches have been hired yet.