Lady Indians make a strong point in debate over cutting athletics.Written by Chris Schmidbauer | | email@example.com
When the clock struck zero March 20 at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, the Waite Indians girls’ basketball squad was etched in the record books as the runner up for the Division I state title during the 2009-2010 season. Amid tears of sorrow, the Lady Indians accepted their medals and made the painful journey back to the Glass City, unfulfilled dreams still fresh in their minds.
But there is a bigger game that will be played on a community stage during the next several months. Whether the ladies realize it or not, they may have helped win a bigger game, of which the final outcome has yet to be decided.
While the dust is still settling around the debate, the Toledo Public School system is still considering axing all of the school systems’ athletic programs. The school board has stated that cutting athletics from the budget would save roughly $3.5 million. While there are no specifics about any of the pending cuts, TPS has routinely included athletics in the list of programs that are eligible for the chopping block.
I could use this space to go into why athletics are great, or why cutting athletics would further cripple a school system that already seems to be on life support. I could list a litany of logical explanations about the benefits of athletics within the schools, and the great life lessons that carry over from the athletic fields into the game of life. But I will let the athletic programs speak for themselves.
Most know about the Waite Indians, who showed all that is wrong with the idea of cutting athletics from the TPS schools.
For the past four months, the city rallied behind this Waite team. How could you not? The team boasts several talented players like Brooke Hunt, Shanice McNeal, Mariah Haynes, and Courtney Jackson, whom have already garnered plenty of attention from several Division I universities. Of course, I haven’t mentioned Natasha Howard. The Florida State bound forward has already been named Ohio’s player of the year, and she is a finalist for several national player of the year awards. Where would any of these girls be without Waite’s basketball program, which coach Manny May has crafted from scratch?
But Waite’s girls’ basketball team is not the only exception. All one has to do is cross the river, and head over to Rogers High School.
Since taking the head coaching job ten years ago, Rick Rios has accomplished a similar feat with the Rams football team. Rios has won a city league championship (2000) and has appeared in three state playoff games (2000, 2005, and 2007). He also has coached several star players, including Drushaun Humphery, who accepted a scholarship to Ohio State prior to his untimely death in 2001, Fred Davis, who is a current player for the Washington Redskins and former star for the USC Trojans, and most recently, EJ Tucker, City League POY this past season and will continue his playing career at UT. All of these young men were players under Rios.
Start High School has had a baseball program that rivals any in the state, and maybe even the country, for many years. Under the tutelage of head coach Rich Arbinger, who recently retired after 34 seasons, the Spartans won two state titles (1994 and 2000), finished as a state runner up several times, and has not had a losing record since 1978. Arbinger, whose successor Jason Biniker will take over the program this spring, had a record 759-214, which ranks him fourth all time amongst his Ohio baseball coaching brethren.
Surely this is just a fraction of the successful athletic programs that have made waves on the local and state sports scenes. Libbey’s and Scott’s boys’ basketball program, Waite’s and Start’s wrestling programs, and Start’s girls’ basketball team are just naming a few of the successful teams that have not yet been mentioned.
But the Lady Indians are the darlings of the city right now, as they grabbed the TPS athletic torch and carried it all the way to Columbus to represent the athletic prowess the Glass City has to offer. These girls illuminated what athletics can do for a team, a school, and a community that has not always had much to cheer about.
It makes you wonder who the next one to bear the torch will be. Who will be the next athletic program to carry this city on their collective backs, with hopes of state championships on the line?
But the flame on this torch is starting to flicker, as ideas of cutting athletics have become more real than ever. The real question is, are we prepared to let this torch, which has been carried by so many over the years, extinguish on our watch?
Chris Schmidbauer is Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star Sports Editor.