Following a lengthy discussion at last Tuesday’s monthly meeting, Linn R-2 board members took no action to change the direction of the football program set to begin next fall. Originally, the …
Following a lengthy discussion at last Tuesday’s monthly meeting, Linn R-2 board members took no action to change the direction of the football program set to begin next fall. Originally, the idea was to begin with a junior high team but things have changed and Linn will play a JV schedule instead.
Coach Steve Samson told the board he had about 40 Linn R-2 students — both boys and girls — signed up to play football next year from eighth to 11th grade. Samson said he was planning to discuss with St. George the possibility of any students there that want to play football in high school. Next year’s team would include freshmen through seniors.
“You said you had 40 kids for JV,” asked board member Tye DeCramer. “That wasn’t part of the plan. The plan was junior high football, right?”
Board member Dr. Shawn Strong said that at last month’s committee meeting, the money wasn’t quite where it needed to be, among other things.
“I think probably in the committee’s mind, they’ve taken the next step,” said Dr. Strong. “I know we’ve had a question with regard to what did the board approve. Technically, the board approved starting football, according to the official minutes. So the question becomes, do we want to go back? I’m okay with that.”
“I’m asking because it was junior high and you’re coming at me with JV football and that does make a difference, a little bit, because the numbers are going to be different than what we thought, obviously,” DeCramer said. “What was the committee’s reasoning for just going straight to JV?”
“Ninth-graders can’t play anymore,” said Dr. Strong. “When we started all this, we thought ninth-graders could fall back and play junior high, but they’ve changed the rules so they can no longer do that.”
“You can’t play down, but you can play up,” said Samson.
“That was the impetus for the whole thing,” Dr. Strong added.
Board member Mark Baker said that the rules the board observed followed what Russellville and other schools had done, and the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) changed its rules, which made the football committee, for which he was speaking, believe the timeline wasn’t going to work.
“I think that’s what prompted the change,” said Baker. “It wasn’t any slight.”
“So will there be junior high and JV?” board member Naomi Klouzek asked.
“Just JV,” Samson replied. “Junior high would be a club sport.”
Linn hopes to field two club teams for students in grades 5-8 next year.
“That would be completely outside what we do here,” Dr. Strong noted.
“So the plan is fall, next year, we’re going to have JV football, not junior high football,” said DeCramer.
Dr. Strong said there is widespread support in the community but noted the new plan — moving straight to a JV schedule — will be more expensive than fielding a junior high team.
“This is a discussion we had when we approved it,” said Dr. Strong. “There’s not a lot of risk with just junior high and the cost associated with it, so we wanted to make sure we had the funds in place. I wouldn’t say we have or have not met our fundraising goal yet but we still have a ways to go, which again, is very exciting, to know the community support is there for football from a financial standpoint.”
“As far as the committee goes, you think you’ll have the money, the field, and everything ready to go by next fall for JV?” DeCramer asked.
Dr. Strong said lighting upgrades cannot be done at this time, or grandstand upgrades, which he noted was never the intent.
“Beyond that, are we pretty close?” Dr. Strong asked.
Committee spokesperson John A. Klebba agreed, noting the program has already purchased surplus goalposts from Mizzou for $100. Also, a five-man sled that normally costs around $5,000 was purchased for $500.
“We’ve had some things come in at less than we anticipated,” Klebba added. “We anticipate we will have enough money to support the beginning and we’re in the process of setting up a not-for-profit for club ball or anything pre-high school.”
DeCramer asked if the school would have to make any changes to the field with a jump to the JV level.
“Yes,” Dr. Strong said. “We’ve got quotes on it.”
To regrade the field will cost about $15,000 and irrigation will cost $25,000. “We’ve got the funds to do that,” he added.
Superintendent Dena Smith said she has received questions about why the school would have a JV program since it had not been discussed in an open meeting.
Dr. Strong reiterated that the minutes were not specific about the level of play. “We can go back and change it or we can talk about it tonight and vote on a revised timeline,” he added. “Either way, I’m okay with it.”
Dr. Strong added that since two R-2 administrators were at the committee meeting, nothing was thought of the change being negative.
Board secretary Hannah Swann said the plan was always to bring this to the board once all the “ducks were in a row,” but the idea was to determine the level of support among community members, and businesses. “The goal was never to try to just push something through that we never agreed upon,” she added.
“A little of it was the chicken and the egg thing,” Dr. Strong said. “For the board to support it, we need the money, but to get the money, we probably needed to go to the community with the new plan. We didn’t want to go out and raise funds and then a month later turn around and say we’re doing something totally different. There was a logical process there but there wasn’t a real clean way to go about it.”
According to Smith, the letter sent out to businesses asking for support indicated that donations would only be used for startup costs for Linn football but contributions of $2,000 or more could be paid over a period of up to five years. “So if they’re only going to be used for startup costs but you can pay them over five years, who’s going to front the costs while those donations are being paid?” Smith asked.
While current fundraising is being conducted through the football committee booster club, Dr. Strong said that a year from now, there will be no football booster club. Instead, the intent is to have everything will go through the Linn Athletic Booster Club (LABC).
Dr. Strong said the goal would be to have the LABC support all sports.
“So if donations keep coming in, the plan is to use put money toward football to help the school out, right?” DeCramer asked.
“Sure, and hopefully, all the fundraising would float all boats and we’ll have more money for all programs,” said Dr. Strong, adding he would argue that the “startup” phase will go for at least five years until the school fields a varsity team.
However, when asked by DeCramer about the jump to varsity, Samson said he anticipated playing next year at JV and then going up to the varsity level the following year.
Seniors can play at the JV level if the school does not have a varsity program.
Smith said that a business owner asked what his donation would be used for, noting the letter addressed season passes, banners, helmets stickers, team pictures, an ad in a program. “Are donations paying for that stuff too or is it just equipment?” Smith asked.
“I would say that’s between you and your administrative staff,” said Dr. Strong. “They reviewed this and were on board with it, so we assumed they were discussing it with you. I don’t know that that’s a board decision.”
Samson said helmet stickers and the like are what businesses would receive for their donation. “Everything they donate goes toward irrigating and regrading the field, and all that stuff,” he added.
“I think Dena’s point is, if we’re giving away football tickets, who’s paying it?” Dr. Strong said.
“This business owner asked me, ‘If I donate this amount of money, is it going for some of these things or is it all going for equipment, uniforms, whatever?’” Smith said.
“Again, I think that’s for you all to figure out,” Dr. Strong replied. “Is that just the cost of starting up football? The intent would not be for the school to be out any money to pay for banners. You all can decide whether giving a few tickets away for boosters is logical, but again, I think that’s between you and your administrators.”
Baker said the committee looked at other campaigns and found that giving away an item to those who donate a large amount of money is a way to thank them for their contribution.
“I think if a person gives a donation and says they don’t want any of that stuff, that would be even better because that would put even more money back into the pot to get the program going,” Baker said. “We will take any and all funds. We’re just trying to get this ball rolling.”
Smith presented an estimate of first-year costs at $33,110, with additional annual expenses thereafter of $5,000 to reseed and fertilize the field, and $2,500 to replace equipment, along with a one-time estimate of $100,000 to build a press box and grandstands based on the $95,000 paid by Russellville its bleachers.
“As I’ve said up front, we are not going to be able to raise enough money to pay for that,” said Klebba of the grandstands and press box.
At some point, the district is going to have to help but in the meantime, the school can use the portable bleachers at the fairgrounds. “That’s not ideal but it works for the short-term,” Klebba said.
Long-term considerations include locker rooms, a practice field, and a coach’s office.
Samson said he plans to have a youth program for kids in grades 5-8 next fall that can join the Washington youth program.
He hosted a camp last month that drew 42 kids and went very well.
“I plan on hosting two more mini-camps before the end of the school year and have a summer camp,” said Samson. “I’m working on a calendar for that.”
Samson said fundraising is still ongoing and doing very well and that he hopes to get the field laser-graded and an irrigation system installed. He also noted that State Tech has agreed to assist in seeding the field in the spring.
Samson wants to get the goalposts up by Thanksgiving.
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