South Park, seen here during the 2012 season, will not yet see its school's football program consolidated with the latest decision by the Buffalo City Schools.
Several weeks ago, Buffalo Public Schools athletics director Aubrey Lloyd proposed a plan that would consolidate the city’s high school football programs from eight to four.
The original proposal called for four teams to represent the city’s seventeen schools: Buffalo North, which would consist of Bennett, Burgard, Olmsted, and MST Seneca; Buffalo West: Riverside, McKinley, and Lafayette; Buffalo East: City Honors, East, Performing Arts, International Prep, da Vinci, and Alternative Academy; Buffalo South: South Park, Hutch Tech, Emerson, and Middle Early College.
Lloyd cited the desire to improve student involvement numbers as his primary reasoning for the merging of the programs. He also said that the consolidation would allow the district to hire more coaches as opposed to having just volunteers, who are usually teachers, head certain teams.
After a vote on Jan.16, the board decided to hold off on the wholesale changes to the football programs for at least another year. It gives Lloyd more time to make more members of the community aware of why these changes are necessary.
Lloyd said that he talked to coaches, ex-coaches and players, and some members of the community about the proposed consolidation, and the feelings on it were the same across the board.
“They were all saying the same thing,” said Lloyd. “They all said, ‘We believe in what you’re doing and we know why you’re doing it, but the community, they’re not ready yet for this monumental change.’”
For the 2013 season, only I-Prep will be consolidating; they will be allowed to join one of the seven remaining teams for the upcoming year.
Tim Delaney, head coach at South Park High School, said that even though he believes merging now would’ve been best, waiting one more year allows them to make sure there are no kinks in the plan.
“It actually becomes a benefit for us (to wait),” Delaney said. “We can figure out what the transportation for the kids will be, where the practices will be had, where the games will be played, and where we’ll store the equipment.”
Lloyd said that he will use this year to gather more data that can be used in deciding the best way to go about consolidating the schools when it comes time for the board to vote once again in 2014.
Lloyd said his focus will be figuring out the amount of students in each school so they can make the programs more balanced, the locations of each school to avoid transportation issues, and the neighborhoods that will be brought together.
The neighborhood issue, Lloyd says, is the biggest talking point among those against the consolidation.
“We’ll look at that,” he said. “We need to see what neighborhoods we are merging together, and if there is a risk to the student’s and community members’ well-being.”
Lloyd said that one community member, a Buffalo police officer, went as far as saying that the merger would bring forth a “bloodbath” between members of rival city gangs. Lloyd’s response to that was that the football programs are not there to “harbor gang members,” and they don’t want people involved in gangs in their programs.
Both Delaney, who is one of Lloyd’s primary go-to men, and Lloyd himself feel that people who believe the future consolidation will affect the students’ ability to play shouldn’t have too much of a concern.
“I don’t think that the merger will eliminate anyone’s opportunity to play,” said Delany. “We want as many kids playing as possible, and this will be a step toward getting that.”
With the merging pushed back until at least 2014, there is still the issue of potential forfeitures — which the programs have been dealing with for the past two years — during the upcoming season. Section VI football chair Ken Stoldt can’t deny that it’s on his mind as they begin to make the schedule.
“It’s always going to be a concern,” he said. “Nobody ever wants forfeits, and hopefully they will find a way to solve the situation this year.”
Lloyd now plans to use a vetting procedure to provide community members’ full takes on the plans as well as making them more knowledgeable of the situation.
He said that the key to making the transition as smooth as possible is getting everyone on the same page.
“That’s what this extra time allows us to do,” he noted.