The headlines read:
•ATHLETIC PROGRAMS DECIMATED BY FINANCIAL WOES
(USA Today, Nov. 2, 1990)
•DISTRICT BUDGET CUTBACKS STUN CITY SPORTS PROGRAMS
(Los Angeles Daily News, June 20, 1991)
•PUBLIC LEAGUE HIT BY CUTS; BUDGET SLASH ANGERS COACHES
(Chicago Sun-Times, Sept. 6, 1991)
September 22, 1991
With plummeting state revenues, nationwide taxpayer curmudgeonliness and a recession whose recovery looks increasingly like a dead cat bouncing, high school sports programs are being slashed. School administrators, hamstrung by shrinking budgets, find themselves in a no-win situation, forced to choose between laying off teachers and continuing to support nonacademic activities. Many schools have cut back sports. A few have cut sports entirely. No one likes it, but the ones who are paying the price are America's young people.
•In August, the school board in Lorain, Ohio, canceled all extracurricular activities, including sports, at its three high schools after voters rejected a millage levy that would have raised taxes in the average household by 42 cents a day. "We've saved $1.3 million," says schools superintendent Thomas Bollin, "but we never thought we'd have to do it. It's draconian. We shut our doors at 3 p.m." Subsequently, the school board saved some programs by borrowing money from the state.
•In June, the Los Angeles school board, faced with a $240 million budget gap, slashed 20% from its athletic budget, eliminating, among other things, junior varsity football and all scrimmages.
•In March, the school board in affluent Montgomery County, Md., cut out middle-school interscholastic sports and replaced them with intramurals.
•In August, the Chicago Board of Education responded to a budget shortfall of $315.8 million by making systemwide cuts that included chopping the athletic budget for each of its 64 high schools from $6,700 per year to $750. At a few schools, the $750 must cover the cost of more than 20 different sports.
•Because of a budget shortfall, Pasco County, Fla., eliminated 1991 spring football practice and dropped 50 games at the varsity and jayvee level in various sports, including contests in seven tournaments.
•In Toledo, high schools canceled jayvee and freshman sports last spring after two bond levies failed to pass. Superintendent Crystal (Boo) Ellis then recommended scrapping all high school sports for the 1991-92 academic year. "We're cutting off the leg to save the body," said Ellis, a former high school basketball star who went on to play at Bowling Green. "You know what this does to me? I wouldn't be where I am today without athletics. It was my escape mechanism to a niche above the poverty level. I never would have gone to college." Toledo voters passed an increased millage levy in May, and the sports programs were reinstated.
Voters almost everywhere else have been reluctant to raise their property taxes—the main source of funds for primary and secondary education—at a pace that matches inflation, and federal and state governments, for all their rhetoric about commitment to education, have failed to redress the situation.
Changing demographics are partly to blame. According to the 1990 census, only one in four American households has school-age children, a proportion that may shrink further as the graying of America continues. And as retirees move south and young adults relocate in search of greater career opportunities, more affordable housing or a better life-style, fewer and fewer grandparents are living in the same towns as their grandchildren. Thus, most American towns are divided between residents with children in the school system—a minority that generally supports higher property taxes and better services—and those without, many of whom are on fixed incomes and feel that schools are getting a disproportionate share of the budget.
Should the economy continue to stagnate, the news is likely to get worse. A recent survey revealed that at least 33 states have slashed services and raised taxes in 1991. Thirty-one states will finish the current fiscal year with budget deficits. Thomas Shannon, executive director of the National School Boards Association, has called the current crisis in state support for education "one of the worst since World War II."
The good news? High school athletics has an awful lot of friends out there, and, applying a mosaic of solutions, school districts have rallied around their sports programs when they have been threatened. To wit:
•In the East Guernsey County, Ohio, school district, whose largest business is a truck stop and whose unemployment rate is one of the highest in the state, parents and others raised $52,000 in private donations during the last academic year to save the high school sports program for 1991-92. In August the county passed (by 56 votes) the first millage-levy increase for this district since its consolidation in 1976. "Seeing how hard these parents worked to raise that money made some people realize what a dire situation we were in," says David Carter, a member of the school board.
•In Appleton, Wis.—hailed five years ago in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED as a town where one could find the "essence" of sports in America—1992 spring high school and junior high spring sports were "frozen" while residents attempted to raise a needed $330,000, through concession sales, donations from coaches and booster clubs, an increase in the price of tickets to games and a user's fee of $50 per high school athlete per sport. Townspeople are also distributing car stickers in exchange for donations of $26 to $1,000. After raising the $330,000, they hope to start a foundation whose endowment will help pay for all extracurricular activities, including sports, in future years.
•In Clayton, Ohio, after 32 teachers' contracts and all extracurricular activities at Northmont High were canceled in August 1990, a group of parents promised to raise $1 million in 10 days so that the teachers and activities could be retained. They fell $300,000 short, but they so impressed the school board that it agreed to make up the difference. When a nine-mill levy passed last November, the $700,000 was returned to the donors.
"Desperate isn't quite the right word for the situation of high school sports," says Mike May, executive director of the Boosters Clubs of America, a clearinghouse for fund-raising information, based in North Palm Beach, Fla. "The best way to describe it is 'in transition.' The old ways are not the ways of the future. If schools are going to continue to pay for their sports programs, athletic directors will have to go back to school and learn a little more about sports marketing."
Sports marketing? Aren't high school sports overemphasized as it is? There are people in every community who think so and who argue that in these times of fiscal hardship, athletic programs are a luxury that schools can't afford. These people point out that in other countries, schools generally are not expected to offer sports or other nonacademic activities. In most European nations, young athletes must join clubs or find other means to participate in sports, yet tests show that European kids on the average are healthier and academically more advanced than their American counterparts.
"I don't think anyone is for eliminating sports forever," Los Angeles Board of Education trustee Mark Slavkin told the Los Angeles Daily News after proposing a measure in June that called for the elimination of interscholastic sports. "But in this financial crisis, we have to make priorities."
Many U.S. educators recognize, however, that academics and school sports in America have a lefthand-righthand relationship. Because a person can live with one hand, does that make the other a luxury? Senior year in high school is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and if priorities are the issue, the priority of each school board should be to insist that a senior's experience be educationally complete, not just academically complete. "The modest savings that the district would realize by eliminating sports doesn't equate at all with the tremendous loss to thousands of kids of school spirit, morale, self-esteem and skill development," says Dr. James Fleming, superintendent of the San Juan Capistrano (Calif.) school system. "It's like cutting off your nose to spite your face. And as a former principal, I can tell you that because of sports we've kept many kids in school who might otherwise have dropped out."
Few would deny that there are significant health benefits to high school sports and physical-education programs and that this is reason enough for communities to underwrite them. And there are also numerous studies that show a correlation between academic performance and participation in high school athletics and other extracurricular activities.
•A Women's Sports Foundation survey of 13,481 students, male and female, from 1980 to '86 found that high school athletes had higher grades and lower dropout rates and went on to college more often than nonathletes.
•A 1984 study of 56,140 randomly selected students by the Texas Education Agency revealed that only 23% of those who were involved in a sport or other extracurricular activity failed one or more courses in the fall semester, compared with 46% of those who were not involved.
•A Minnesota State High School League study released in 1984 showed that students who participated in activities had a better grade point average (2.84) than all students taken together (2.68).
•A 1980-81 Iowa High School Athletic Association study found that students who played two or more sports had a better grade point average (2.82) than those who played one sport (2.61), who in turn did better than nonparticipants (2.39).
•A Kansas State High School Activities Association study conducted in 1982-83 found that only 6% of students who dropped out of high school that year had been involved in an extracurricular activity. That is to say, 94% of dropouts had been nonparticipants.
"Athletics is not just fun and games," says Robert Roman, who is director of school and community activities for the city of Toledo. "Most kids, even if they're not the stars, enjoy being part of a team. Ninety-five percent of them are never going to get a college athletic scholarship, but that little bit of glue or bonding that comes from being on a team, even if it's a jayvee or freshman team, is what makes some kids want to come to school every day."
Sports and activities also make up a relatively minor portion of educational expenses. "The net cost of funding school activities is between one and three percent of the total school budget," says Brice Durbin, executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations. "That's not very much, considering that 60 to 70 percent of the students participate in some activity, whether it's a sport, the band, the student council, the debate team or whatever."
Why, then, are so many school boards taking the knife to the extracurricular budget? It's because threatening to eliminate high school sports in particular is guaranteed to attract the voter's attention. Says Richard Hinds, deputy superintendent of Dade County (Fla.) schools, "School boards say, 'We don't have enough money, therefore we're going to cut out the frills.' And they go after athletics. It's like holding your mother hostage. Everybody gives in."
In many ways, the situation in Toledo last spring was typical. When word got out that superintendent Ellis had recommended the elimination of sports, some local business leaders came to the city with an offer to try to independently raise funds to support athletics. "We told them, 'We don't even want to talk to you about it until this mill levy passes,' " says Roman. "There was more at stake than just sports. Athletics was the lead dog in the fight, but we were also going to have to increase class size and begin charging for bus transportation. We were going to have to eliminate some fringe academic programs and cut out extracurricular activities like the school yearbook."
Toledo school officials turned the fund-raising offers down. And, to their great relief, the millage levy passed, saving high school sports and a raft of other important programs. But Roman is the first to recognize that voters being voters and Toledo's economy being on fragile ground in the best of times, the problem isn't gone. "It's just been deferred," he says. "It won't be long before we run into another financial crisis and they roll the athletic program out on the carpet again. It undercuts the morale of the kids tremendously. Somebody's got to look into how we're going to fund education nationally in the future."
To date, the solutions, such as they are, have been regional in nature. Because budget problems and tax laws differ widely from state to state and because the federal government has been content to watch from the sidelines, each school district must attack its own fiscal brushfires with whatever tools it can muster. Some of these tools are new; others have been around for decades but have only recently been asked to assume a vital role in the funding of high school athletics.
Many school districts, particularly in the Northeast, have begun charging user's fees to student-athletes. This disquieting scheme, also called pay-to-play, has been ruled illegal in at least two states, California and New York, because of its discriminatory effects: You can play on the school baseball team if you can afford to. The National Federation of State High School Associations has come out against the fees. "Since activity programs have documented educational value, they should be funded as part of the regular school program," Durbin says. "These are not extras. All students should have access to them."
When the Tucson school district instituted a $105 per-activity user's fee for sports and other extracurriculars last year, 30% fewer kids came out for sports. Rincon High had to cancel jayvee football when only two kids showed up for it, and two Tucson schools had to eliminate cross-country programs. "Who wants to spend that kind of money to run in the desert?" asks Bob Vielledent, football coach at Santa Rita High School, who shelled out $420 so his daughter could play three sports and serve on the student council. "Plus, it's discriminatory. Middle-class kids can't afford it. And it puts tremendous pressure on coaches to play kids. 'How come my $105 isn't as good as his $105?' It's almost a form of extortion. People aren't going to pay that kind of money so their kids can be substitutes."
Stung by parents' and students' reactions, the Tucson school district voted this year to lower the user's fee to $50 per sport and a maximum of $150 per family.
In Massachusetts, however, user's fees have become the norm. At Lincoln-Sudbury High School in Sudbury, 20 miles west of Boston, user's fees of $100 per student per sport were instituted in 1989. "It hasn't affected our participation at all," says Jim Dusenbury, athletic director at the 900-student school, where 70% of the kids play at least one sport. The user's fees now contribute $100,000 toward Lincoln-Sudbury's $260,000 athletic budget. "We didn't have a lot of choices," says Dusenbury. "I was really looking to cut out freshman sports, but the coaches were adamant about saving them. We haven't cut out any programs as a result, and we offer just about every sport you can imagine, at just about every level. Nobody's happy about the fee, and we're committed to eventually getting rid of it. But the proof is in the pudding, I guess, because the kids are still showing up."
At nearby Concord-Carlisle High School in Concord, where user's fees have tripled to $75 per sport in the past two years, athletic director Brent Clark sees few alternatives to pay-to-play, which meets $60,000 of his $300,000 budget. "I've never talked to anyone who said that user's fees are a good idea," says Clark. "But is it realistic not to charge them?"
In affluent suburbs, perhaps not. Most schools in such communities offer some sort of fee waiver or financial aid to families with single or unemployed parents struggling to make ends meet. And the important thing is that student participation remains high, and programs have not been cut. But in economically mixed or poor areas, user's fees are not an option.
San Francisco is the first and, to date, the only city to have legislated a professional sports ticket tax. The process began last January, when school superintendent Ray Cortines, faced with $25 million in cuts from a general budget of $225 million, suggested that the school board eliminate high school athletics. Upon hearing this, supervisor Terence Hallinan got on the phone. "I called the superintendent and asked if this was just a threat to get more money," Hallinan says. "He told me it was a done deal. So I got to work."
Hallinan's plan, which was passed by his fellow supervisors by an 11-0 vote in June, levies a tax for one year on every ticket sold at Candlestick Park: 25 cents for Giants' tickets and 75 cents for Forty-Niners'. Estimated take: $1,059,000, all of it earmarked for high school and middle school sports. "It's the most popular tax I've ever heard of," says Hallinan. "As taxpayers, we put millions of dollars into that facility, and I don't think it's asking too much to get something back for our high schools. Public-school sports is a matter of vital importance for big cities. You're talking about 10,000 high-energy kids, many of whom wouldn't be in school in the first place without sports."
How did the 49ers and the Giants react to the tax? "They were reluctant adversaries," reports Hallinan, who may propose a similar tax bill next year and broaden it to include tickets to see the San Jose Sharks, the new NHL expansion team that will play for the next two years in the Cow Palace, and greens fees on municipal golf courses. "The 49ers were getting a lot of heat from the NFL, which has a rule against passing a surtax on tickets. So we rewrote the legislation to make it clear that this was not a surtax. This pro sports tax has potential, but I haven't heard of any other city that's followed up on it. The question is, Do the legislators in your town have enough gumption to stand up and say, 'Hey, I love sports. Let's help our kids'?"
It's an idea whose time may have come in the U.S.'s financially strapped cities, many of which have been virtually held hostage by pro sports teams seeking municipally built stadiums replete with luxury boxes. Meanwhile, high school sports in big cities have been virtually ignored. It is far more difficult to rally community support in a district with 10 or 12 high schools than in one where there are only one or two schools. "Our budget has not been cut," says Lou Jones, director of athletics for Oakland's six public high schools, laughing wryly. "It's still $5,000 per school, the same as it was when I was coaching between 1961 and '68. They don't recognize the consumer price index here, I guess."
The same is true in San Francisco, which has held the line at $6,500 per public high school (exclusive of coaching salaries, fees for game officials and the cost of some transportation), the same figure that athletic programs received in 1975. "Considering inflation, that is a tremendous cut," says Anne Heinline, commissioner of athletics for the city's middle schools and high schools. "We're fortunate that a civic group, Save High School Sports, raises $100,000 annually. But we've lost intramural sports entirely. We once had a whole range, from table tennis to basketball to softball to soccer."
The founder of Save High School Sports is Don Barksdale, 67, a former Boston Celtic. He has raised more than $600,000 since 1985 by hosting celebrity luncheons at which sports stars like Willie Mays and Bill Russell wait on tables in exchange for donations from the diners. "The problems of funding high school sports could be eased so much if professional sports would just help out a little bit," says Barksdale. "When I started, you could buy a football helmet for $36. Now that price has tripled, and the cost of everything else has tripled. But the money allocated to athletic programs has not tripled. If every professional athlete contributed just one percent of his salary to the school he grew up in, we wouldn't have a problem. But very few of the young stars are tuned in to these needs."
Barksdale might also suggest to the heads of the NFL, the NBA and Major League Baseball, all of whose players benefited from high school athletic programs, that they contribute to high school sports. What if the leagues voluntarily submitted to a ticket tax whose proceeds would be earmarked for high school athletics in the cities? Sports fans have become so inured to the annual increase in ticket prices that they might applaud any rise that was actually put to good use.
A 1987 survey revealed that 95% of Fortune 500 managers at or above the level of executive vice-president had participated in high school athletics. (Only 43% were members of the National Honor Society.) Pro golf and tennis, the U.S. Olympic Committee and, more recently, college football and basketball programs have all taken advantage of this affinity and enlisted corporate sponsors. Many European club teams are sponsored by corporations. This could be the way of the future in U.S. high school athletics as well.
A model program is already in place in Indiana, where the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) has landed a major sponsor in Farm Bureau Insurance. An agreement signed in June 1988 calls for Farm Bureau to contribute $2.75 million to the IHSAA over the next 10 years. The money is being invested in CDs and will be used to set up an endowment fund that will pay for state tournaments in the IHSAA's 12 nonrevenue-producing sports.
Of course, Indiana is atypical in that, to Hoosiers, high school sports are king. The final game of the 1990 boys' basketball tournament drew 41,046 to the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis, a national record for a high school basketball game, and turned a $1.3 million profit. That money was distributed back to the 386 member schools. Indiana also holds the record for attendance at a girls' state basketball tournament: 31,325 came to the final three games in the Market Square Arena in Indianapolis in 1989. The IHSAA, which receives no tax revenue, has a lucrative television contract for the two basketball tournaments and a few other high school athletic events—it will not divulge exactly how lucrative, except to say that the fee has increased by 250% in the last 15 years—and also runs profitable football, baseball and wrestling tournaments. So it does not exactly have to crawl to prospective corporate sponsors.
"A lot of other states have sought corporate sponsors to solve their financial problems," says Gene Cato, commissioner of the IHSAA, "and have been able to get them at lower figures—$20,000 to $30,000. My concern was, What if the corporations dropped the contracts, and the schools had already worked those funds into their future budgets? We didn't want that to happen to us. We figure by the time the contract with Farm Bureau is over, we will have accumulated, with interest, in the neighborhood of $4 million. That endowment will insure that we will always have revenue to sponsor the sports that run a deficit and to provide liability insurance to our member schools."
Many enterprising athletic directors have been landing corporate sponsorships for individual schools, too. Jerry Stauffer of Warren Central High in Indianapolis sold $500 to $1,000 sponsorships to four local businesses, in return for which each company got to put a 1½-inch-high logo on the uniforms of one of Warren Central's teams; hang a banner in the venue of the sport it sponsored; and receive a full-page advertisement in the school's sports program and four all-sports passes. "It's important to note that the money does not go to the sport the sponsor chooses, it goes to the athletic department," says Stauffer. "We have not had one bad thing happen as a result of corporate sponsorship. It's been a good way to tie into the community, and we have not had to cut out any sports."
The National Federation of State High School Associations is all for schools seeking corporate ties. Says Durbin, "Outside money from organizations like corporate sponsors and booster clubs is not wrong, provided that money is funneled through the school. That money is not tainted at all."
College sports booster clubs have a terrible reputation, and deservedly so. They have been behind many of the recruiting violations that are the bane of college athletics. But high school booster groups are another matter. With rare exceptions, they are literally mom-and-pop operations that run ticket booths and concession stands, organize bake sales and perform the countless other thankless tasks that keep high school athletic programs functioning. "At the high school level, it's still as puritanical as it ever was," says Boosters Clubs' director May, who estimates that there are about 25,000 booster clubs in the U.S., an average of more than one per high school. "But they're going to have to get more professional about fund-raising, and some of them have. There are booster clubs out there raising well over $100,000 a year."
In Carrollton, Ga., the high school's booster club has raised $1.4 million in the four years that Ben Scott has been athletic director. "People are stunned at what we've been able to do in a recession," says the ebullient Scott, who doubles as Carrollton's football coach and oversees the club's fund-raising activities.
With the money that Carrollton's booster club has raised, the school has filled in a 14-acre swamp to build a new baseball field, complete with lights and an irrigation system, and constructed six lighted tennis courts. Carrollton High, which has 818 students, has also completely renovated its gymnasium and field house, added a 4,000-square-foot weight room, put up new scoreboards in the stadium and gym and resurfaced the track.
Scott has been careful, though, to cultivate the support of the entire community and not alienate any faction. There is one booster club for the high school rather than separate fund-raising efforts for individual sports. Carrollton gives a letter jacket to every boy or girl who wins a varsity letter, not just to football players or basketball players, as some high schools do. "Once you start recognizing one sport over another, it's like building the Great Wall of China around yourself," says Scott.
Among their booster club's fund-raising activities are a horse show, a golf tournament, a sports memorabilia auction, concession sales, invitational track and baseball tournaments and $25 memberships. Scott got a local bank to pay for the new scoreboards and a utility company to pay for the lights. And he has done it all without any help from the taxpayers or from user's fees. "In the state of Georgia, you can't use tax money for athletics," says Scott. "And we'll drop sports before we charge kids to play. That's not what we're supposed to be about. Our kids do not sell any chocolates or T-shirts. Why should we be making money for a T-shirt company? We're selling the best product in America: Carrollton High. There's support for young people in every community in this country, but that support has to be marshaled."
Clearly, the man who must marshal support is the high school athletic director. Any athletic director who thinks he is doing a good job simply by collecting user's fees, hiring coaches and making up schedules is robbing the taxpayers and, worse, the students. Says Sam Jones, the former Boston Celtic who, because of budget cuts, just lost his job as athletic director of the Interhigh League of Washington, D.C., "Fund-raising is what they're supposed to do. That should be one of the qualifications for an athletic director."
"The days of taking the old coach and putting him out to pasture as AD are gone," says George Long, the athletic director at Urbandale (Iowa) High. "The athletic director's the key guy. If he can get people excited about his program and get good people around him, then the program can be successful." Long has been getting people in Urbandale, a suburb of Des Moines, excited about high school sports for 24 years.
With Long's help, the local booster club raised $70,000 to pay for Urban-dale's new track by selling shares at $25 a meter. Concession sales, all handled by volunteers, bring in a staggering $30,000 to $40,000 annually, because Long schedules 150 tournaments a year at the school's facilities, drawing teams from all over the state. Freshman tournaments, sophomore tournaments, baseball and Softball, track, AAU, regional—you name it. McDonald's sponsors many of the events. "We try to put on a top show by inviting all the best teams," says Long. "We live and die by gate receipts. The most expensive thing in my budget is the empty seat."
When Long came to Urbandale in 1968, he gave away tickets to girls' basketball games to build interest in the sport. "We had to promote to survive," he says. Now the games take in $8,000 to $10,000 a year. Urbandale was among the first schools in the state to charge admission to softball games. And to drum up interest in the home football opener each year, Long orchestrated an annual How Will the Game Ball Arrive This Year? promotion. Once, he had the ball flown in by helicopter just before kickoff. Another year the game ball descended by hot-air balloon. And once, the pigskin was delivered by parachutists who landed on the 50-yard line. "But the scariest thing we did was have a guy with the game ball land on the field in a glider," says Long. "He came down about the 30. We kind of ran out of ways to do it after that."
Energy and imagination. Those are the requisites of the modern high school athletic director. "All these ideas aren't my ideas," says Long. "I stole a lot of them from my dad, George Long Senior. He's 85 years old and still coaches a semipro baseball team—never had a losing season. He was a promoter of professional wrestling and boxing events in this state. When I was in college, I used to take some of his baseball teams on the road, and I learned how to be the advance man. I learned how to go into towns and talk to the radio stations and newspapers."
Some athletic directors have staged Alumni Games weekends, inviting alumni back for pay-to-play games against fellow graybeards. Others have served as dinner speakers, auctioneers, raffle-ticket salesmen and garage-sale hosts. "This job is having an idea and selling everybody else on it," says Ben Scott of Carrollton High. "Is that marketing? I don't know."
If there is a single answer to the problem of funding high school athletics, we haven't heard it. What works in one region of the country is unrealistic or illegal in another. The fan support and ticket revenues enjoyed by high school sports in Georgia, Indiana and Iowa might be impossible to duplicate in cities like New York or Boston, where the sun rises and sets on professional sports. And a pro sports ticket tax that might be a boon to Washington, D.C., or Los Angeles will do nothing to help financially strapped counties in Idaho or Montana.
So far, the issue has been addressed by myriad voices, which is probably what President Bush had in mind when he spoke of the "thousand points of light" during his last campaign. Yes, they are out there. The question is, Are we as a nation committed to providing high-quality education for our young people in good times and bad, in rich districts and poor? School boards usually can't borrow money when tax revenues fall short. State and federal governments can. "We've got to go back to the statehouse and the governor to get the money to properly fund these programs," says Tom Sammon, executive assistant to the superintendent of San Francisco schools. "If it means more taxes, it means more taxes."
"If we couldn't raise the money through our fund-raising efforts, I'd be looking for tax support," says Tom Up-church, superintendent of Carrollton's city schools, "because I really believe that activities and athletics are that important to the education of a child. Those kids learn tremendous lessons in teamwork, sharing and discipline, and I'm convinced these lessons help them in later life."
"We need to be looking for some solid solutions to this problem," says Durbin. "From state governments, from the federal government. If anything's educationally sound, which we know high school sports are, it should be properly funded through the school. We cannot separate academics and activities. They are all part of the same program, and that program is education."