By Marty Gordon
At a recent Christiansburg High School football game, the ticket booth had no lines and the smell of popcorn traveling through the stadium was absent. Spectators were limited to approximately 250 total people, composed mostly of parents of the football players, band members and cheerleaders. No outside fans were allowed.
This is the scene being played out across the state of Virginia. Typically, a school could make as much as $5,000 at the gate and maybe another $200-$300 for the athletic boosters at the concession stand on any given night. But that’s not the case right now. Instead, many schools might now be looking at a bare-bones athletic budget.
Something budget items might have to be eliminated. Uniforms might go unreplaced, and old equipment might be reused.
At the heart of the matter and the real problem with high school athletic budgets is the fact football pays for almost all of the other sports.
One local athletic director said a typical baseball game is simply not going to bring in the type of “admission” money that a Friday night football game does. Now that scenario can be thrown out the window.
Danny Knott who oversees athletics for the Montgomery County School system, points out that gate receipts have pretty much been non-existent.
“We are fortunate that the division has helped with some game-related expenses over the last several years. The division is providing the same assistance this year,” he said.
For now, the county does not have firm numbers on the shortfall.
The situation is similar in Radford where Superintendent Dr. Robert Graham said athletics is bringing in very little revenue this year while expenditures remain the same.
“That being said, our administration and coaches are doing an outstanding job of providing a wonderful athletic experience in some very strange times,” Dr. Graham said.
Many people believe Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s 250-maximum limit for high school football is a major reason for the shortfall. Earlier this week, Northam said that the 250 capacity limit will not change at least for the remainder of the month.
“We want people to go out and be able to be spectators and see their children and be with their friends,” he said during a briefing on Tuesday regarding high school football games. “We have increased the number of individuals at outdoor stadiums to 250. That’s through March, and if these numbers continue, if these trends continue to be favorable, we’ll make further modifications that will start on April 1, so I would say more to come in that regard.”
That date would be the final week of the regular season with the possibility of the highest “ranked” team being able to host a playoff game.
Some schools and athletic boosters have managed to offset the slide with advertising banners and sponsors in and around football fields.
Knott said he did not know if Montgomery County will be able to provide additional assistance but does not anticipate any cuts at this time.
Graham said this situation will affect their overall budget significantly, but they have no plans to eliminate anything.