Volume 92, Issue 4

Friday, June 5, 1998

george likes his chicken spicy


Tightening the noose on athletics

Tom Baumgartner/Gazette
...THEY'RE RUNNING TO STAND STILL. Ontario's high school athletes, whose programs are facing extinction because of Bill 160, feel that despite their best efforts the future looks bleak.

By John Intini
Gazette Staff

Government budget cuts have put a monetary noose around the necks of high school administrators, threatening to make next year's high school sports season across Ontario a victim of "capital" punishment.

According to Wes McConnell, coordinator of the London Conference Athletic Association, the current funding allocated to high schools from the provincial government has tied the hands of many school principals – whose job is to divide up funding between their respective schools' extra-curricular and in-school activities.

"Over the last few years principals have seen their budgets cut drastically by about 40 per cent," McConnell said. "It is not the fault of principals but stems from a government that obviously does not see the importance of high school sports."

He said the problem in the London area is two-fold. It is reported that 135 teachers will retire this year from the Thames Valley District, with half of those retiring teachers being coaches. The other problem is one of the new regulations in Bill 160 which indicates that a teacher must work a minimum of 1,250 instructional minutes a week, not including extra-curricular activity.

"We are going to have fewer teachers who are going to be asked to teach more," McConnell said. "It is already a huge sacrifice to give time to coaching a team and with another 80 minute period in the day, teachers will simply be unable to fit it into their schedule."

Similar problems are appearing across the province. At St. Joseph Secondary School in Mississauga, Antioco Puddu, history teacher and assistant coach, said he worries that with the added class period, teachers' jobs will be in jeopardy.

"By making teachers work four out of five [periods], some teachers won't be needed anymore," Puddu said.

In defense against teachers' claims of cancelling sports programs, it was reported last week that Minister of Education and Training, Dave Johnson, attacked what he deemed an "empty threat" by Ontario high school teachers. Johnson argued at a press conference held in Toronto that the extra period teaching that is being discussed simply puts the teachers on par with other provinces.

Johnson, as well as many critics of the move, feel that highschool teachers are simply bluffing. McConnell wanted to make it completely clear that the high school desk is full.

"This is not a threat," McConnell said. "This is simply one of the implications of Bill 160. When the bill was first passed many long term risks were discussed and this is a highly unfortunate result of the Conservative bill."

Western Mustang football head coach, Larry Haylor, said the issue is a very serious matter, especially for football since "99 per cent" of all recruits for football come from high school programs.

"Cancelling of the sports programs is simply not in anyone's best interests," Haylor said. "Even if student athletes do not continue on to the university level, high school sport provides a tone of values and life skills to participants."

To Contact The Sports Department: gazette.sports@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998