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John Moriello's NYSSWA blog
Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2009: Assessing the proposed NYSPHSAA reductions
   "I reject get-it-done, make-it-happen thinking," former California Gov. Jerry Brown once remarked. "I want to slow things down so I understand them better."

   That's a reasonable sentiment, but only in moderation. Serious problems often require aggressive measures, meaning it's sometimes necessary to tackle the clichéd "low-hanging fruit" quickly while formulating a solution for the more complex issues.

   Sometimes the initial measures even have the benefit of diminishing the remaining bigger problems. The Boston Red Sox had to go to the bullpen one batter into a 1917 baseball game because Bath Ruth, then more of a pitcher than a hitter, got himself ejected after he issued a walk. Next thing you know, Ernie Shore is recording 27 consecutive outs and winning the game, 4-0.

   More often, however, issues are resolved incrementally and painfully. Quick, easy fixes just do not exist.

   That's where the state of New York stands today. The economic downturn has shredded the economy, and elected officials in Albany face a deficit in excess of $15 billion in next year's budget. Among the casualties is the education budget, with proposed state aid being pared back considerably from what local school districts were anticipating when they started the annual planning process in the fall.

   And that has everything to do with why the executive committee of the state Public High School Athletic Association will vote on more than a dozen cost-cutting proposals at its quarterly meeting at the end of the week.

    The NYSPHSAA officials are trying to be proactive in dealing with financial issues. They rightly recognize that cuts are coming in virtually all aspects of the education budget and want to take the initiative in setting priorities and finding solutions lest someone not as well informed try doing it for them. That's their right, and I would even say it's their responsibility.

   But I'm just hoping there's at least one Gov. Jerry Brown disciple in the room. I don't think the process needs to be brought to a screeching halt, but it does need to be slowed down long enough for people to take the proverbial deep breath and reacquaint themselves with the phrase primum non nocere: First, do no harm.

   Some of what's being proposed can damage sports and athletes in both the short and the long term. Other measures to be voted on are, quite frankly, questions that should be decided at the local level. I fear that the executive committee will approve them for reasons having to do with style rather than substance. Simply put, the measures look more fiscally prudent than they actually are.

Don't confuse "interstate" with "expensive"

   Exhibit 1 along those lines is the measure that would restrict out-of-state travel to only the states that border New York. That would limit New York teams to traveling to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and (presumably) the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

   On the surface, such a restriction makes sense. When gas spiked at over $4 a gallon (with diesel even higher) last year, travel became an expensive prospect even if there was no overnight stay involved.

   Whether relying upon its own bus fleet or a contractor, schools spend a lot of money filling the tank and paying the driver. Premium unleaded came back down to noticeably less than half its all-time high last month, but is already threatening to cross $2 a gallon again.

   Most of the other expenses - paying coaches and officials, hiring security and medical personnel, running the stadium, etc. - are relatively fixed costs that don't change much. But the transportation cost for road games is a different matter, and the excursion gets even more expensive when there's an overnight stay involved, for instance for teams running early morning races at the annual McQuaid Invitational cross country meet in Rochester or for schools scheduling back-to-back hockey games at Potsdam and Massena on a weekend.

   So the rationale would seem to make sense, because shorter trips will bring down the cost of operating the buses.

   Just don't try telling that to folks in Carthage, whose trips to Syracuse for Section 3 contests cover about 88 miles one way. And then there's Wellsville, which theoretically could be asked to trek 93 miles to Rochester for sectional or state-qualifier basketball games in assorted sports. [continued]

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