Football merger is dead issue |

Football merger is dead issue

Let Mounties be Mounties and Rams be Rams.

The Ligonier Valley School Board will not be entertaining any recommendations to consolidate its two high school football teams any time soon, officials said Thursday.

“That would be safe to say,” confirmed Ronald Baldonieri, Ligonier Valley’s principal and football coach, who also chairs the district’s athletic committee.

It was good news to the roughly two dozen parents who attended the committee’s meeting last night to address rumors of plans to merge the Ligonier Valley and Laurel Valley teams.

While the issue was not part of the committee’s planned agenda last night, district officials turned out to set the record straight.

In a prepared statement, Superintendent Dr. Stephen Whisdosh explained that, during budget talks last spring, “the issue of consolidation of athletic teams was discussed, but not pursued by the board for the 2003-2004 school year.”

“At that time, the administration was directed to examine the cost savings through a cooperative sports program,” Whisdosh said. “Since that time, there have been no discussions by the board and administration relative to this issue.”

“No decision has been made, and none will be made until it’s brought before the board in the form of a recommendation by this committee,” school board President Daniel Resenic said.

And according to Baldonieri — who polled those in attendance as to whether any favored consolidating — no such proposal will be forthcoming.

No one at the committee meeting spoke up in favor merging the teams.

“Running two teams is twice as much money,” admitted Dennis Flickinger, the district’s athletic director. “But in regard to saving money, if you look at transportation alone, there’s not much savings.”

Flickinger also noted that it’s a 20-minute bus ride from the high school in Ligonier to the Laurel Valley Middle/High School in St. Clair Township.

“With some students living another 20 minutes away, we’re looking at an hour a night on a bus just to go to practice,” he said, adding consolidating the teams is also likely to reduce participation.

“When you take a sport and house it on one end of the district, the participation is just about nil” on the other, Flickinger said. “It’s taking something away from the students.”

Laurel Valley Boosters President Joe Ludwig said the organization also favors “maintaining the status quo.”

Cooperative sports in the district “are not really working well, except for baseball,” said Ludwig, who also noted that excessive travel times pose academic hardships for students by cutting into their study time.

In his statement, Whisdosh also refuted a comment published in the Tribune-Review Thursday that alleged he supported consolidating the teams.

“I was mystified as to how my opinion appeared in print, since it has never been expressed,” Whisdosh said.

“Let me state clearly that I will not form an opinion on this issue until public hearings are scheduled, and community consensus is reached … your influence and opinions will not be ignored, and I will never make a recommendation to consolidate athletic teams if any student will be hurt as a result.”

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