By Meg Dickens
The Johnson County School Board voted unanimously to move $30,000 in funds to select sports programs during its Tuesday, August 25, called meeting. Dr. Stephen Long, Athletics Supervisor, brought the proposal to the board briefly during the previous meeting. According to Long, the decision to continue sports was not his.
“It was my job to make the case for athletics, so I made that case,” Long explained his decision to continue contact sports while school cannot be in-person. “Participation in athletics is not compulsory. Attendance at school is compulsory. Nobody has to participate in sports. Parents of players signed waivers. No one has to attend sports as a spectator. It is 100 percent optional.”
Controversy brewed locally when contact sports continued despite the current COVID-19 pandemic. Chairman Howard Carlton reports “irate folks” contacting him on the subject. In a Tomahawk poll before the official decision, 65 percent of voters were adamantly against continuing sports in the current situation. Another 12 percent were wary but supported returning with special precautions. Now restrictions are limiting monetary intake for what officials call “revenue sports.”
Revenue sports, which include football and basketball, have the most profitable events, hence the name. Long explained that these sports operate on their earnings. School Board Member Mike Payne asked if this could work as a loan, and Long reports at least one coach approached him with the same idea.
“Frankly, that would be difficult to do because they don’t operate that much in the black,” Long answered. “They exist on what they make. The answer is that I can’t really answer it, Mr. Payne.”
Officially, the $30,000 in funds will be transferred to Central Office from an undesignated fund where personnel can send in requests. According to officials, this fund transfer will happen regardless of whether sports stop. It is a future-based investment.
“I understand the conversations that I’ve had, but I think we’re still trying to balance things for our kids and trying to have some type of normalcy, some type of a system that we can get back on track with,” Carlton explained. “Unfortunately, we’re having to make these decisions, and nobody likes them.”
The Johnson County School Board will reconvene at its regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, September 10. View board meetings live or through archives on the Johnson County Schools TN Video YouTube channel.