Update on the San Jose sports cutting situation

It got worse in East San Jose last night.

Here's an update on the story that we brought you yesterday about the East Side Union High School District consideration of cutting all sports programs at their 11 schools across the East Side.

The superintendent of schools for the ESU proposed $11.4 million in budget cuts at a board meeting last night, including $2.1 million from the athletic budget.

$2.1 million IS the athletic budget.

In front of what I'm told was an overflow crowd full of coaches, athletes and parents, the board passed the tentative budget plan, which may change before the June state deadline to have their budgets for 2010 and beyond set in stone.

I exchanged voice mail throughout yesterday with Jeff Borges, a PE teacher and the head football coach at Andrew Hill High School; the last I heard from him, he was on his way to the board meeting. I'm hoping to catch up with him this morning and get his thoughts on what happened last night. Here's an excerpt quoting Borges from this morning's San Jose Mercury News:

"Shame on you and the people who are responsible for even bringing this up tonight," said Jeff Borges, a coach at Andrew Hill High, before a standing-room-only crowd that filled the board room and spilled into the lobby. "You say $2 million in sports, I say get rid of an administrator at each school and the problem is solved."

The Oakland Athletics and San Jose Earthquakes, the Bay Area's MLS team, are trying to work out a plan to help save athletics for the ESU, which is a noble effort from each team. I'm hoping that this isn't the end-all, there are other very successful teams and organizations that can help prop up the programs and support the school's struggling booster programs.

Like I said yesterday, cutting all athletics would be a disaster for thousands of kids who are going to high school in run down and crime-ridden areas of San Jose. Said one sign at yesterday's meeting: "Sports keeps me out of trouble."

Is there any simpler way to put it?


Cutting Sports in San Jose Is The Wrong Move

Normally, I don't soapbox on this blog. I try to stay away from trying to tell people what's right and wrong ethically in the world of sports. I try to stick to what's happening on the fields, diamonds, courts and rinks.

However, a story I read in today's San Jose Mercury News prompted me to write this morning, especially because this is a matter that concerns where I grew up and programs that helped me along to where I am today.

One of the last bastiens of amateurism in sports today is found in high school. With all the controversy surrounding collegiate athletics, whether it be players receiving improper benefits, not completing classes or the what not, one of the last places to find pure, unadulterated sport is at your local high school.

For those who ever participated in a sport during their high school years (track and field, in my case), you remember what a tremendous experience it was. We all grew as athletes and as people, guided by coaches we'll never forget, and learned lessons in sports and in life that most of us carry with us into adulthood.

For many, after-school sports is a way to stay out of trouble as well. In many neighborhoods and cities across America, playing a sport is a way for school administrators to keep their students off the street once the school day is over and channel their talents towards the positive.

Which brings me to this...today's Mercury News reports that the East Side Union High School District, located in San Jose, CA, is considering cutting all sports programs at their 11 high schools.

Some areas of the East Side, for those who don't know much about the Bay Area, is considered one of the poorer areas of the Silicon Valley. Geraldo Rivera once actually called East San Jose "the ghetto side of town." Areas around Andrew Hill High School and James Lick High School have been historically noted for their high incidence of crime.

I know the economy is bad. It's affecting everyone throughout the United States, especially the education sector.

However, the last I checked, high schools are supposed to be where the youth of America are prepared to enter higher education and the working world. They're supposed to be sources of spirit and pride for their surrounding communities, and like it or not, these high school teams are most often the catalyst for this spirit.

Even more importantly, of course, is that for thousands of students at Andrew Hill, James Lick, Santa Teresa, Overfelt, Evergreen Valley, Mt. Pleasant, Piedmont Hills, Yerba Buena, Independence, Oak Grove and Silver Creek, their after-school sports programs, which for some provide springboards to playing in college and for all provide a way to stay in shape, gain positive support from coaches and teammates and, most importantly, stay out of trouble, will be gone.

Maybe I'm naive, maybe I'm short sighted...whatever it is...all I know is that I'm 23 years old...only 6 years removed from my own high school experience as a thrower and runner for Cupertino High School. I'll always remember those times for what they did for my self-confidence and athleticism.

Taking these sports away from thousands of student-athletes would be a huge mistake.


Quick Trigger Coaching Changes Don't Help...They Stunt

We've all heard that adage about head coaches in pro sports.

When a team starts losing..."it's easier to fire the coach than fire 20 players."

However, when those 12...15...20...however many players just don't have the experience and refined talent to win consistently, is it really the fault of the man in the suit?

There have been two questionable firings so far this season, and in both situations, the teams who did the firing are simply too raw to be competitive, at no fault of the coach who was fired.

In Oklahoma City, the Thunder are just too young. Sure, Kevin Durant is one of the most dynamic young players in the NBA, so it's easy to forget that he's just in his second pro season. But when you look at the players surrounding him, they're either equally as young and inexperienced (Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green), a veritable draft bust (Nick Collison) and several players who would look lost playing basketball anywhere (Johan Petro and Chris Wilcox).
In short, the Thunder are simply just not a very good basketball team. With a few more good draft picks and possibly some shrewd free agent moves, they still have the pieces in place to be at least a competitive team.

So why pull the rug out and get rid of the only coach that some of these players know? PJ Carlesimo was unceremoniously released a few weeks ago...one of four head coaches in the Association to already lose his job...and I feel like out of all of them, he was the least deserving. While Eddie Jordan, Sam Mitchell and Randy Wittman all failed to capitalize on their past success and with the talent infusion they each received (with the exception of Wittman, who was just in a hopeless situation in Minnesota), Carlesimo was never even given the chance to succeed.

Down the Sun Belt in Tampa, an even more egregious firing took place...one that has already stunted a young team and possibly the development of their brightest prospect.

You can say all you want about how Barry Melrose may have lost touch with the game of hockey during his 12 years as the lead NHL analyst at ESPN, but you can never question his enthusiasm and passion for the game.

It makes his outster after just 16 games behind the bench in Tampa Bay just that more mind-boggling.

It's incredible how the Lightning have sunk so swiftly to the bottom of the NHL standings just four years removed from a Stanley Cup title, especially with players like Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Paul Ranger on the roster. It's the effects of poor management and poor coaching that led them to this spot.

Maybe Melrose wasn't the long-term solution to the problems in Central Florida, but it's hard to judge that when he was only given a month and a half to be the team's head coach. From what I have been told by sources, Barry wasn't happy with how hands-on the ownership and front office were with the on-ice product. When he tried to get them to retreat, he was fired.

The worst thing about the entire Melrose/Lightning fiasco is it's effects on #1 pick and super-rookie Steven Stamkos. Tampa Bay struck a coup when they landed Stamkos and Melrose was trying to give him every opportunity to get ample playing time and invaluable experience; now that Rick Tocchet is in charge, Steven's minutes have decreased. Melrose said in an interview with The Fan 590 in Toronto that Stamkos is not NHL ready but he was trying to get him there. Now, I imagine it will take extra years to get him ready to play every night in the NHL, if he's ever ready, period.