Football about more than football

MIDDLEBURG — If Midd-West chooses to begin its own football team, the cost of the team is only the beginning.

Currently, Midd-West’s band does not participate in football, as the team is an East Juniata program. Likewise with cheerleaders (although, Midd-West superintendent Rick Musselman said, Mustang cheerleaders have been to some games).

As its own program, Midd-West would have to include those groups as part of the program, and that would add two costs — transportation, and adviser salaries. He said he would have to meet with the teachers union and discuss how the additional demands would be compensated under contract.

“We haven’t really addressed anything,” he said.

But those are a drop in the bucket compared to facilities costs. Musselman believes the stadium currently used by the co-op team would be inadequate for a Midd-West team, which would have to play in the Heartland Conference. The East Juniata program is in the smaller Tri-Valley League, and except for meetings between the two high schools in Juniata County, does not tend to see the crowds expected if the Mustangs were playing much larger — and established — programs like Selinsgrove and Shikellamy, for example.

If the stadium remains at its current site — which is convenient for East Juniata, but requires transportation from Midd-West’s main campus for its own players — then the bus cost for the players remains on the books.

The field, which was built for West Snyder High School soccer, has a small press box, limited parking areas and bathrooms that can handle only a couple people at a time. There is a recently-added scoreboard.

“You have bleachers on one side — you have visitors and the home team sitting on the same side,” he points out.

But it hasn’t been a point of discussion, especially as the district is in the final stages of an overhaul to the West Snyder building, now an elementary school after serving previously as a middle school. The district completed that without borrowing — and has operated without a tax increase each of the past four years.

Stadium costs vary, but Juniata County School district is in the final stages of an overhaul to Dietrick Field that includes bleachers, ADA-compliant ramp access to visitor seating and a new press box at a cost of more than $330,000.

Another issue, one less likely to have an impact, is Title IX. Midd-West currently has nine varsity sports teams each for boys and girls, although a ninth girls team — lacrosse — is not paid for with district funds. Of the more than $225,000 Midd-West budgeted for athletics last year, boys sports did get a slightly higher amount, although dollar figures alone are not a measure of compliance.

“It’s all about, ‘are you providing an equitable opportunity for males and females to participate in sports?'” Musselman said.

Opportunity remains the driving factor, he said.

“If the board in this community wants their own football program, that’s all well and good. We’re here to serve,” he said. But, he added, “I would hope that playing football, or any other sport in any school, is not the main focus of the child going to school.”