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Charles Breithaupt

Hard times for high school athletics

High school football may be a big deal in Texas, but high school sports are not immune to budget cuts.

With school districts across the state facing major budget cuts, members of the Texas High School Athletic Directors Association met for their annual conference with a focus on finding ways to limit expenses.

The attending athletic directors said it was nice to see they weren’t alone in their budgetary struggles.

“It’s not that misery loves company by any means,” Houston ISD athletic director Marmion Dambrino said. “But it is good to know and listen to ideas of how others are dealing with these budget issues. It’s all about how creative we can become with what it is that we are doing.”

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UIL executive director Dr. Charles Breithaupt spoke on Tuesday about the attention athletics receive during budget cuts because of the publicity the programs receive. School boards also debate the stipends coaches receive when expenses have to be cut.

“I want to give them the message of hope,” Breithaupt said. “Why things are bleak financially across the state and across the national, parents and kids still want to participation in athletic programs. Really, athletics are the biggest bang for your buck that a school district can get. Research shows that students who participate in athletics attend school more regularly, focus in the classroom and have fewer discipline referrals.

“Knowing all of that, what better program can you have than that at a school?”

I appreciate his passion for the job, but I’m sure you could say the same about a school’s music department, and we know what will happen with them. You know that my preference is for there to be no cuts, but that’s not a possibility. Given that, athletics will have to shoulder their fair share of the burden. I wish the ADs luck in figuring out how to make the most they can from less.

UIL on UT TV

When the UT TV network was created, I wondered just how the heck one school could fill out its programming schedule. Turns out there’s a lot of potential content available thanks to UT’s historic ties to high school athletics.

“We’re the only one left,” [Dr. Charles Breithaupt, executive director of the University Interscholastic League] said of the UIL, which was founded in 1909 and, under state law, is part of UT-Austin.

Earlier this year, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association became independent of the University of North Carolina.

Through the UIL, Texas typically has more students competing in athletics than any other state. According to figures compiled by the National Federation of State High School Associations, in the 2009-10 school year Texas had 780,000 boys and girls competing in high school athletics while California had 771,000. No other state had as many as 400,000 participants.

The UIL also runs academic and music competitions for its member schools.

Breithaupt said the UIL has a contract with Fox Sports to televise UIL football, basketball and baseball championships, but the deal is only for the championship games in those sports. He said playoff games could be available to the Longhorn network as well as regular-season games. The UIL has a long-standing ban on televising football games on Friday night, out of concerns that the telecasts could hurt local ticket sales. However, that leaves Thursday and Saturday games available for TV, and Breithaupt said more schools will probably warm to the idea of playing on those nights if it means television exposure.

I did not know that about the UIL. Can’t say I’m a big fan of high school sports, but there are plenty of ’em out there, so this idea sure makes sense.