If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, then the road to waste may be paved with free transportation.
So far this season, the Buffalo High School boys basketball team has logged nearly 2,500 miles attending away games and tournaments. And, while we understand that planning 20 games per season for each boys and girls basketball team along with wrestling matches and swim meets is no easy feat, there must be a better way.
There are many problems with scheduling sporting events several hundred miles away. In addition to the actual cost of transportation, meals and lodging, the time away from school for student-athletes and teachers who coach is an extreme hardship that not even a 4.5-day school week will be able to address.
Further, there is the toll on working parents who want to attend these contests to support their kids. It is virtually impossible for anyone other than a teacher or self-employed parent to take that much time away from work.
This problem is not unique to Johnson County. It is a statewide problem. And the Wyoming High School Activities Association only adds to the problem with the makeup of conferences consisting of teams from several hundred miles away from one another.
The fact that the State of Wyoming foots the transportation bills for all school districts contributes to this problem.
We cannot help but wonder whether schools would continue to send teams 300+ miles away to compete if the district had to pay even a small portion of the bill.
In years gone by, Buffalo played nearby teams. Sometimes that meant playing Gillette and Sheridan in basketball. Often our teams would play against larger schools’ JV sports teams. Rarely did teams travel over a couple hundred miles.
Former Clear Creek School Principal Don Tavegie tells tales of scheduling games so that the school would not be required to pay for a meal for student-athletes. Times were lean: Johnson County’s total valuation was less than $90 million, whereas our school district’s annual budget (excluding transportation) exceeds $22 million now.
Still, there is some value to the frugality practiced in the past. As state tax revenue continues its decline, there will be less and less money to go around. Schools are already crying poor and having to tighten their belts. One easy solution would be to schedule regionalized tournaments with nearby teams. We could also learn from past scheduling practices when times were a lot leaner.
We hope that districts and the WHSAA can find a solution to this problem before the Wyoming Legislature has to get involved and force districts to pay their own way for transportation.
But then again, with responsibility comes accountability.