A pair of decisions made by the board of the Alaska School Activities Association in the past year are grossly unequal and have forced a south peninsula mother to move 40 miles so her son can play football.
At its spring meeting in May of last year, the board voted that Ninilchik School and Homer High School could not team up to form a football squad.
Ninilchik, which has about 70 students in its high school, does not have enough players for a football team. The proposal would have allowed students from Ninilchik to join the already existing gridiron unit at Homer.
Then at its fall meeting in late September, the ASAA board voted that Glennallen and Kenny Lake would be allowed to team up and form a hockey team this season.
Kenny Lake and Glennallen have had separate hockey teams in the past. While Kenny Lake still has enough skaters for a squad this season, Glennallen does not have enough players.
Mary Ellen Doty and Ninilchik principal Mike Wetherbee, who were turned down by ASAA in the spring, are befuddled by the inconsistency the board has shown with the two decisions.
Doty had driven her son, Noah McWilliams, back and forth from Ninilchik to Homer for four years so he could play Pop Warner football.
With McWilliams set to enter high school this year, Doty and Wetherbee brought the Ninilchik-Homer proposal to ASAA last spring. Doty wanted McWilliams to enroll at Ninilchik and play football 40 miles down the road at Homer.
After ASAA turned down the proposal, Doty ended her five-year residency in Ninilchik and moved to Homer. Doty now commutes to Ninilchik for work.
"I'm still interested in the rest of the kids in Ninilchik that would like to play football," Doty said. "We could (move), but a lot can't."
ASAA's decision regarding the partnership of the Glennallen and Kenny Lake hockey teams has piqued Doty's interest.
Attempts to reach Gary Matthews, the executive director at ASAA, for comment late this week failed.
In a Homer News article regarding ASAA's rejection of the Ninilchik-Homer partnership proposal, the reasons Matthews gave for rejection are ludicrous in light of the recent Glennallen-Kenny Lake decision.
First, Matthews said that because Homer is classified as a 4A school (401 students and up), it is not eligible to form a cooperative agreement with another school.
ASAA's bylaws state that 1A schools (five to 50 students) and 2A schools (51 to 100 students) are the only classifications eligible for cooperative agreements.
While this bylaw obviously rules out Homer entering a cooperative agreement, it also should rule out Glennallen, a 3A school (101 to 400 students), entering a cooperative agreement. Thus, Matthews' first reason for the Homer-Ninilchik rejection is brought into serious doubt.
The second reason Matthews gave is that if larger schools, like Homer, were allowed to enter cooperative agreements, they would gain a competitive advantage.
There is no debating that Homer's football team would be better if it were allowed to use football players that are dedicated enough to make the drive down from Ninilchik every day.
But how is that different from the competitive advantage that Kenny Lake will gain from adding six Glennallen skaters to its roster?
Kenny Lake had 11 skaters last year, and only two were seniors. Adding the Glennallen players to the mix will give Kenny Lake a competitive advantage. Thus, Matthews' second reason for the denial of the Ninilchik-Homer partnership also is tossed into serious doubt.
I am personally in favor of changing ASAA's bylaws to allow the Ninilchik-Homer and Glennallen-Kenny Lake partnerships. But this opinion piece isn't meant to argue the pros and cons of changing the bylaws. That's a subject for another column.
The purpose of this piece is to red flag an action by the ASAA board that, in light of the Glennallen-Kenny Lake decision, clearly discriminates against Ninilchik and Homer.
Friday morning, Doty and six other community members met in Ninilchik and vowed to press this matter further.
When this community group reaches out to ASAA again, the board must act to erase the injustice it has perpetrated against Ninilchik and Homer.
This column in the opinion of Clarion sports editor Jeff Helminiak. Comments and criticisms can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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