Cost, 'school pride' deprive students of football opportunity

Northeast Bradford (Pa.) High faces plenty of challenges. While being part of one of the state's smallest school districts (only one high school), in tiny Rome, Pa., NEB struggles to allocate funding for all the sports teams its students want to compete in. Historically the Panthers have not fielded a football team because of the significant expense of equipment and transportation for a sport which would be marginally short of players to field a traditional team.

Yet, unlike other school districts across the state and country which allow their students to play for teams in neighboring districts, Northeast Bradford is refusing to let its students play football whatsoever, with one of the primary reasons cited in keeping them from football being a need to maintain "school pride."

According to the Towanda Daily Review, all attempts to allow NEB students to play for another school district have essentially been halted by expenses that the district has deemed as excessive. Northeast Bradford School Board president Ed O'Connor said that allowing students to play for other school districts would cost Northeast Bradford approximately $25,000 a year, with some $15,000 needed for transportation and another $10,000 handed over to another school district.

While that $25,000 sum is significant, it's not the most heated point raised by O'Connor and the board. Rather, the contentions that allowing NEB students to play football elsewhere could weaken existing Panthers teams -- like the Northeast Bradford baseball team pictured above -- and hurt school pride were justifications for keeping the sport out of bounds were what left some parents of potential football players at the meeting infuriated.

It's hard to find fault with those parents, either. It's one thing for their sons to be deprived of an equal opportunity at football for fiscal reasons. We are in the middle of a recession, after all. However, to brazenly suggest that eliminating the prospect of the nation's most popular sport is good for the school as a whole because it strengthens other sports seems to rely on self-serving logic at best.

For now, that logic is still strong enough to keep football out of reach for NEB students for at least the 2011 season. The only question is whether that will change at any point in the future.

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