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John Moriello's NYSSWA blog
Friday, Nov. 19. 2010: Brett Favre to the white courtesy phone, please ...
   Leading off today: If you thought the Brett Favre soap opera got tedious rather quickly, you'd better hunker down for the ongoing saga of the Empire State Games.

   On Tuesday night, the story broke that the summer and winter ESGs had been canceled. State employees tasked to running the events were either let go or reassigned, and the official website was taken down.

   Now, organizers of the winter edition of the Empire State Games say they have the funding in place to stage the event Feb. 25-27 in Lake Placid. The Associated Press reported yesterday that Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall said local leaders are pulling together the required funding. It's believed they'll need to raise $150,000 to patch the hole the state blew in the event budget with Tuesday's surprise announcement.

   Regarding the summer ESGs, scheduled for Rochester in July, Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks said this week she's not giving up on securing private funding to make up for the estimated $1.25 million needed to replace state support. That's a noble effort on her part, but the Empire State Games are dead even if the local organizing committee (LOC) succeeds. And Brooks is smart enough to know it.

   Oh, sure, they could manage to pull off the event as previously scheduled next summer. But what happens the year after that? And then the year after that?

   The Empire State Games have been in existence for more than three decades, but there's never been nearly enough support from the private sector. It was largely propped up with money from the state budget and quasi-governmental agencies such as the New York Lottery. Corporate sponsorships have always been very small and local/regional.

   And now the state is saying it has no money to spare. The truth is that New York long ago ran out of money. Those of us stupid enough to stay will be paying off old state debts (cleverly hidden in a maze of authorities and bond issues) for years to come, and there's no reason to believe that the incoming administration will be any more effective at restoring fiscal sanity than past administrations. New York has been spending roughly $12 billion a year too much for each of the last five years, resulting in jacked-up taxes that are driving businesses away.

   In any case, they've officially punted and told organizers they're on their own for securing funding. There are few businesses with a footprint across the state that could benefit by ponying up $1 million a year to keep the ESGs alive. First Niagara Bank stepped up big last summer in Buffalo after the 2009 ESGs had to be canceled due to budget problems, but the return on investment is so abysmal for a four-day amateur event that a one-year commitment was about all anyone could hope for.

   Without someone stepping up with a three- or five-year commitment, a revived Empire State Games would live in scramble mode every year, with the LOCs having to

  
scratch and claw right up to the last minute to make sure they could cover the expenses.

   And that's no way to run an event. Why train and attend tryouts in the spring only to have the rug

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TOURNEY BRACKETS Tournament brackets

pulled out from under you a month later?

   In my mind, the best hope is for a university to take ownership of the Empire State Games and use it as a tool to lure prospective students, perhaps even nuking the open and masters divisions. With dorms and food service facilities already in place, Syracuse University could pay wholesale rather than retail for two of the larger expenses associated with hosting.

   Even then, though, the overall cost would still exceed $500,000. That's a hefty price tag at a time when college tuition continues to rise much faster than inflation.

   No, there are no easy answers. Just assume the worst and figure the Empire State Games really are dead and won't be coming back.

   Coaching changes: Brian Wickham is stepping down after a decade as the head football coach at Marcus Whitman and 27 seasons overall on the staff, The Daily Messenger reported.


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   "I want to say that all of us that have been involved with football and athletics thank Brian for his contributions to the program," AD Gil Jackson said. "He's done a great job over the years."

   Marcus Whitman went 2-6 this fall.

   Also, Coxsackie-Athens football coach Roy Deyo has announced his retirement.

   Extra points: A few of us have been scouring the record books this week to try to confirm it, but it appears as though Buffalo St. Joe's quarterback Chad Kelly became the first player in state history to throw for 2,000 yards and run for 1,000 in a single season. The impressive junior finished with totals of 2,159 and 1,057 in 11 games this fall. Ashton Broyld of Rush-Henrietta has an outside chance of joining the elite club if the Royal Comets reach the state final.


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