Posted: Saturday, 24 August 2013 4:57PM

Four SWCL schools look at adding football

Springfield, Mo. (  -- This Friday, 341 Missouri high school football teams will kick off their season.   But there are a lot of schools in our area who don't have football.  Four of them are looking into what the future of Friday night lights might hold.

“It gets talked about a lot this time of the year,” Sparta superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Hyatt said.

“Football’s been talked about for a decade in Forsyth,” superintendent, Dr. Brent Blevins said.

“Football is like a snow day,” Clever’s superintendent, Dr. Richard Henson said, “you don't want to be the only one in and you don't want to be the only one out.”

So a few months ago four local SWCL schools (Clever, Forsyth, Sparta and Spokane) got together to explore the possibility of adding football at the same time.

“The biggest thing with adding football is finding someone your size,” Daryl Bernskoetter, the superintendent of Spokane said.  “To have a successful program, you have to win and to not have any games too far away.”

The first piece of the puzzle - enrollment.  These four schools think they’ll have enough boys to field a football team in the near future; kids are already playing mighty mites from those towns.
The second piece of the puzzle - land.  Thanks to recent capital improvement projects, they all have space reserved for a football stadium.

Spokane's is pretty obvious inside its’ new track by the high school. At Clever and Sparta, overgrown fields behind their new schools will be grated in the next few weeks.

Forsyth is in the lead, getting ready to overhaul their baseball field into an outdoor sports facility with field turf.  The complex will be completed by spring.

The price tag, $1-million which comes from a no tax bond increase voters passed.  That's the tricky final piece of the puzzle - money.  Each school does NOT want to increase taxes to pay for football upgrades.

Lights alone cost close to a-quarter of a million dollars.  Then there's crowning the field, scoreboard and adding bleachers.

“$300,000 to $500,000 for our size (of stands needed), that's a big chunk for Sparta,” Dr. Hyatt said.

Clever believes it has an answer to the money question.  It will bring in stands and lights over time, spreading out the project, and spreading out the costs over the district's budget.

But that's just the one time start-up cost. These superintendents also have to factor in equipment.

“A small school superintendent said, ‘I have $50,000 to $55,000 to run the thing every year,” Dr. Henson said.  “There's a well experienced teacher with a master’s degree, so there's your trade.”

Also every year you need to pay coaches.

At the same time, these leaders need to do what they're there for - running these school districts.

“Before we add a new program,” Bernskoetter said, “let's go back and see what we cut before and see if there's a legitimate need for it.”

“I want to see it,” Dr. Hyatt said, “but, I'm trying to be the voice of reason and keep things in perspective and do it right so when we do it, we can be successful.”

Each school wants what's for the best for their students and most importantly make sure they're safe.

“I could have a football field tomorrow and say, GO!” Dr. Henson said, “but that's not safe for kids.”

Clever was the only school to give an estimate for a start-up date.  Dr. Henson said 2020.  That would be having mighty mites in 2014 and 15.  Football then progresses to junior high in 2016 and 17.  JV would be introduced in 2018 and 19.  Then finally varsity would take the field in 2020.

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