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Commentary - On the clock: Fix prep football start times
by Dan Eckles - Commentary
Oct 14, 2010 | 682 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
If you've been to a Northern 4A prep football game this fall, you've probably arrived on campus a few minutes before 7:30 p.m., expecting kickoff to follow shortly thereafter. Undoubtedly, you've looked at the watch on your wrist or on your phone around 7:45 p.m. and noticed there still a few minutes left on the scoreboard clock for pre-game warm-ups.

This has become the norm rather than the exception for Northern 4A games scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. The reason is schools have scheduled their JV games to kick off at 5 p.m. It should be pretty obvious, you can't start prep football games two and a half hours apart and expect to get a warm-up in before the second start time. That's about as realistic as expecting monkeys to do

math.

Schools already play freshmen football games on Thursday. They should play both freshmen and JV on Thursday. This would allow for the varsity only to play on Friday. With no previous game to wait for, the varsity contest could kick off at 7 p.m. sharp. The varsity game should stand alone and be “The Show.”

The root of the problem lies in busing issues. Buses throughout the district have their routine routes at the conclusion of the school day. Thus, to bus students in extra-curricular activities, their trips must be made earlier than routine routes, around 1:15 p.m., or after routine routes, around 4 p.m.

A later start time allows for the later bus ride, which keeps student athletes in school through the entire day. It also allows more parents to view games after a normal workday. Both are valuable concerns, but neither should keep the schedule makers from finding flexibility.

This winter, the standard start time for girls JV basketball will be 3 p.m. Tennis matches already start at 3 p.m. Many soccer matches begin at 3:30 p.m. Precedent already has been set. It's fine for some student-athletes to begin competitive events before 5 p.m., so it should be fine for football

Granted, earlier game times help sports writers with deadlines, so my rant here is somewhat selfish, but I'm not alone.

“(Not starting at 7:30 p.m.), has become an epidemic. There is a problem,” Spanish Springs athletic director Art Anderson said. “We discussed it at our last 4A region meeting. I don't know what the solution is.”

Luckily, I do.

Here is the solution. Start freshman football games at either 3 or 3:30 p.m. Thursday and then JVs could follow immediately after in the 5:30 to 6:15 p.m. area. You'd want to get that second game started in that time frame to keep those kids from being up too late on a school night.

The freshmen kids would need to leave school early, but only for road games, about every other week. Freshmen parents with a normal 8-to-5 gig would only have the one season where they'd be strained to catch games. Besides, how many people have 8-to-5 jobs these days? In today's take-what-you-can-get economy, there are parents working jobs of all shifts and at all hours. Later start times likely help some parents, but surely inconveniences others.

I also feel for Anderson and other local administrators and game staff. The later a game starts, the later it finishes. That means the later postgame work gets done and the later they get home. Anderson mentioned he hadn't been home in time on a Friday night to see the late news and its prep highlights yet this fall.

I'm glad Northern 4A athletic administrators have begun to talk about the issue. Hopefully, it's one they'll address and work to correct for next season.



Dan Eckles is the Sparks Tribune's sports editor. He can be reached via e-mail at: deckles@dailysparkstribune.com
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